Duke recruit set for ACC hoops

Duke recruit set for ACC hoops

CorrespondentJuly 20, 2011 

— Pinned against the wall in between two men's rooms in a sweaty, cramped hallway at N.C. Central's McLendon-McDougald Gym, Austin Rivers patiently answered questions for about 10 minutes after his game Tuesday night in the Greater NC Pro-Am summer basketball league.

He then signed basketballs, shirts and sheets of crumpled paper for maybe another 10 minutes, all the while smiling for pictures with strangers. At some point, a police officer poked his head through the door and motioned to the exit, implicitly asking Rivers if he needed help escaping.

"Nah, I'm good," Rivers said.

That level of attention doesn't seem strange to Rivers. The son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, Austin Rivers was one of the most decorated recruits in the country, ultimately opting to play at Duke.

Still, the scene at N.C. Central offered a clue for what life will be like on Tobacco Road for the freshman.

"I've been kind of used to this since high school, but it is a little bit different here because North Carolina is more of a basketball state," said Rivers, who went to high school in Winter Park, Fla. "Florida is more of a mixture of football and basketball. I'm kind of getting a taste of how serious it is here, and I love it.

"That's why I chose to come to this area and play basketball."

Rivers is playing in the summer league with future teammates Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly. Curry, who is also the product of a basketball family - father Dell had a lengthy career in the NBA, brother Stephen starred at Davidson and now plays for Golden State, doesn't think Rivers will have any trouble getting acclimated.

"The attention isn't going to be anything new to him," Curry said. "With his dad and how much attention he got in recruiting, he'll be used to that. The biggest thing is performing on the court. That'll be the biggest thing."

On the court, Rivers showed Tuesday why he is expected to be a key contributor for the Blue Devils this season.

He had no trouble zooming past defenders, and his handle on the basketball was particularly impressive.

At one point, he used his crossover to create space and then blow past his man. Another time, he dribbled between his legs to set up a step-back 3-pointer that splashed through the net.

His game got him into trouble at one point.

Hemmed in by the corner of the court and his defender at one point, Rivers twitched to his right before accelerating to his left, shedding his man for a reverse layup.

The only asterisk was the fact the referee whistled Rivers for traveling.

Rivers tried to get the ref's attention while jogging back down the court, ultimately resorting to a "Hey, ref!"

After a couple more words from Rivers, the referee called a technical foul.

"He thought I was serious, but I talked to him after the game and told him I was just messing with him," Rivers said. "It's a pro-am game. I'm not vocal with the refs in a real game or anything like that. I think he thought I was serious."

If nothing else, the summer league affords Rivers a chance to develop a rapport with some of his future teammates. He and Curry seemed to work well together - the pair repeatedly looked for each other in transition or in the half-court.

Duke will head to Dubai and China in August in an exhibition tour, and when the team gets back, the start of practice will be less than two months away. Rivers can't wait.

"Just being with Duke," Rivers said when asked what he's most looking forward to. "College basketball, period - the fans, the coaches, the rivalries. I'm very excited to get to play in that atmosphere."

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