The son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Austin is the top-ranked high school player in the country, averaging 29.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game this season. He has committed to Duke.Read More Below
In today's youth-obsessed culture, scouts are quick to anoint high school players as the next big thing. Teenagers are touted as draft prospects. Prep athletes compared to NBA superstars. Newcomers are overexposed and overhyped, and fans often unrealistically expect them to flourish immediately.
For Winter Park's Austin Rivers, the hype may be justified. He's the nation's top-ranked recruit, an all-everything shooting guard who can seemingly score from anywhere. He's been billed as a natural leader, and coming off last Saturday's 63-57 victory over DeLand, has pulled the Wildcats to within two wins of their second consecutive Florida state championship. Analysts have showered him with praise.
"I've always just played my game," he said. "I let everybody else decide what I am and what I'm not."
His game does his talking for him, as he's been nearly unstoppable on the court. He's an explosive ballhandler, deadly accurate three-point threat and excellent finisher around the basket. His pure athleticism is unparalleled, and he's shown an uncanny ability to create his own shot, using his 79-inch wingspan to outmaneuver smaller defenders. Entering Friday's matchup with Columbus, he was averaging 29.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
His scoring was coveted in college circles, and he originally committed to Florida in 2008. He changed his mind last April, though, committing to Duke just five months later. He cited program tradition, familiarity with the system and a budding relationship with Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski as the primary reasons for his switch.
"[Coach K] helps me with everything," he said. "We talk about life, video games, girls. Anything that's on our minds."
They also talk about Rivers' role next season, as he'll join a Blue Devils team that should be considered a favorite again in 2012. Duke will likely return Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Mason Plumlee, among others, and will add four-star forward Michael Gbinje. Despite a talented surrounding cast, Rivers will be asked to carry much of the offensive load.
He'll also be counted on to follow in Kyrie Irving's precocious footsteps. The freshman point guard was averaging more than 17 points and five assists per game before he was sidelined by a toe injury in December, and the two could form a lethal backcourt tandem if Irving doesn't declare for the NBA draft. Though he has yet to announce his plans, his immediate impact has inspired Rivers for his arrival to campus.
"Seeing Coach K putting so much trust in a freshman to lead the team shows what they believe in," he said. "I feel like next year, he will trust that I can lead this team."
Until then, Dukies can take stock in his basketball pedigree. Austin is the son of Doc Rivers, the current Celtics head coach and former guard for the Hawks, Clippers, Knicks and Spurs. He credits his father for much of his player development, and his father's lessons have helped him progress from an all-state talent to the Florida Player of the Year.
More importantly, they've taught him to "never settle," a phrase Austin considers his guiding motto. His insatiable approach to the game could pay major dividends in Durham next March.
"My own expectations are a lot greater than other people's," he said. "There's always something out there for me to achieve."