2012 NBA Draft Combine Coverage: Can Duke's Austin Rivers live up to the hype in the NBA? - June 15
Due to his father being a former collegiate All-American, NBA veteran, and title winning head coach, Duke's Austin Rivers has been in the national spotlight for quite some time. The Blue Devil shooting guard chose to enter the 2012 NBA Draft after just one season in college, carrying a heavy burden as he transitions to the next level.
"At the end of the day, basketball is something I've been playing my whole life," Rivers stated at the NBA Draft Combine. "It's a game. I have fun. I love it... I take it very serious [sic] but I understand that there's always tomorrow. I haven't been perfect in my career. I have a lot of ups and downs. You take the downs, you fix them, you flush them, and you keep moving forward."
That thought was almost certainly engrained in Austin's head by his father, Doc Rivers. That is not the only advice dad offered his son as Austin goes through the NBA Draft process.
"Stay hungry and humble," was another message Austin said he has taken from his dad. "Understand that this is a blessing to be here, just not to take anything for granted. Really go out there and work hard, show teams who you are truly. Don't try to be somebody you're not. Try to act real in interviews and if they choose you, that's the right fit for you."
Besides his father, Austin soaked in every piece of information he could from Duke head coach, Mike Krzyzewski. "It benefitted me a lot," Rivers said of his experience of playing for Coach K. "I can't tell you how much I learned over this past year. You just see things differently, how to read the defense, how to play defense, how to compete even more. I had to read pick and rolls, just little things like that. How to be a leader, how to talk to your teammates, how to bond, how to bounce back after a tough loss."
Rivers had a successful lone season at Duke, leading the team with 15.5 points per game and hitting an unforgettable game-winning shot in an impressive come from behind victory at North Carolina. He measured 6'5" in shoes at the Combine and weighed in at 203 pounds. Rivers is still a bit skinny by ideal NBA standards, and how he handles a more physical style of play in the NBA is a concern as he heads to the next level.
"It's going to be tougher. Guys are stronger, bigger, faster. At the same time, this is something I've been waiting for my whole life. I wouldn't have come out if I didn't feel like I was ready. This is my dream and I'm going to do everything I can to achieve my goals and work hard."
Possessing a natural feel for scoring the basketball in a variety of ways, Rivers is one of the top shooting guards in the 2012 class. He has incredible handles and thrives at creating for himself off the bounce. Getting better playing off the ball will be essential for him to reach his potential as a pro. He figures to go as high as No. 8 to the Toronto Raptors and definitely wouldn't fall past the Minnesota Timberwolves at No. 18.
"I feel very confident and really ready," Rivers said. "My scoring ability, my play-making ability, to get other people involved; I just feel like I'm ready to go out there and compete."
With all that tutelage and confidence (or maybe cockiness is the more appropriate term), Rivers appears to be mentally prepared for the pressures that will come with playing at the next level due to the name on the back of his jersey. If he can physically mature and get stronger, he should have a lengthy and successful career in the NBA just like his dad.