College, Featured Gallery / Jan 5, 2012 / 11:00 am

Dime Q&A: Duke’s Austin Rivers Rises Above The Headlines

Austin Rivers

Austin Rivers

With Twitter and such slashing attention spans and news cycles, our culture more than ever possesses an instant gratification mentality that screams, “What have you done for me lately?” Never mind your last performance, you’re only as good as your last moment.

How else to explain the relentless early-season scrutinization of Duke freshman guard Austin Rivers?

Before Rivers had played five games in college, articles breathlessly harped on the “problems” with his game, pondered whether he was “overrated,” or speculated about his attitude and relationships with teammates to fit a predetermined narrative.

And yet, despite the perversity of launching harsh critiques of Rivers so early into his college career, it’s difficult to imagine it having been any other way for a top 5 high school recruit who happens to be the son of Doc Rivers.

“Austin has been signing autographs for fans and hanging out with his dad’s players and friends in the NBA for years, so he fits right in with basketball’s most nationally televised team as far as fame and notoriety goes,” says Adam Rowe of DukeHoopBlog.com. “If he was at almost any other school, that fame and polarization would stick out like a sore thumb. But Duke and Rivers are seemingly perfect fits.”

In what is hardly a shock for someone labeled a “basketball nerd” by his father, Austin has proved a quick study, fueled by an indomitable desire to get better. It’s not uncommon for Rivers to steal away to the gym for after-midnight shooting sessions, literally improving while everyone else sleeps.

By December, Rivers had found a consistent groove – playing within the flow of the offense, working hard to improve on defense and using his talents to create for teammates. Comparisons to a ready-made Kyrie Irving were off-base – understandably so – but with the luxury of a dozen games under his belt, Rivers had nonetheless emerged as a very good player.

Holding court at his locker after scoring 14 points in Duke’s 90-63 win over UNC Greensboro, the 19-year-old coolly and amiably addressed the media with the polish of a seasoned veteran, no surprise given the environment he came up in. In between questions, he joked with backcourt mate Seth Curry as part of an animated discussion about Young Jeezy‘s new album.

But when asked about the early-season media scrutiny, Rivers’ eyes narrowed slightly but perceptibly, while his words became a bit more pointed.

“I read a couple of (articles), they motivated me, and it seems like the tune has changed now,” said Rivers. “When I first came in, people were saying, ‘Austin needs to do this, Austin’s not doing this,’ and that’s just because I came in with all that hype and they expected (a great deal) early. People don’t understand that I was just getting into it, that I was playing better and better and better.

“And now that I’m playing good, now everybody’s saying, ‘Oh Austin, you’re doing this great, and you’re doing that.’ It just goes through one ear and out the other, because I know I can keep getting better and keep learning. The ultimate goal for me here is just to win, and that’s what we’ve been doing, so I’m doing fine.”

We caught up with Austin for a few minutes to discuss his adjustment to college basketball and life at Duke, his tastes in sneakers and music, and the return of the NBA.

Pages : 1 2
Related Posts with Thumbnails
  • doc

    He good. But he dont look like the surefire NBA star they was making him out to be in high school. So he is overrated in that sense.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Aron Phillips

    Great interview, Bryan. Austin is the man.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Austin Burton

    Thanks Aron! Oh wait…

  • TJ 2

    I think when he gets drafted he will be able to contribute a little more to a team and be a little more mature than other rookies because of his upbringing. i can see him understanding his role on a team a little easier, and with how deep the draft class of this year will (potentially) be (if he comes out) i can see him going to a fringe team and making an impact.

  • justsayin

    Why is the tone of the article making it seem like Rivers is a VICTIM. All the media outlets basically put this kid on a pedestal and he relished in it, so don’t take it personally if he disappoints and people start having doubts. It’s like you said: You’re only as good as your last game. I don’t think that is a concept that he alone has had to deal with; the other freshmen get flap when they don’t perform as expected as well. I think the only time he may feel it more is when certain media outlets refuse to acknowledge his shortcomings and the achievements of the other freshmen. No one likes that double standard. I think he is a good player (not the best), but just as good as the other freshmen on their respective teams. Yes, Rivers hits the gym but these other guys are not sitting in their dorms twittling their thumbs. Give credit where credit is due. I want to see some articles on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, Quincy Miller, Cody Zeller, Tony Wroten, etc. These guys are putting it down too.

    p.s. @doc—–> I agree. He is NOT overrated overall. He IS a good player. He is just not this PHENOM that folks make him out to be.

  • http://www.sportsangle.com Bryan Horowitz

    @justsayin – Thanks for the comment, I think you hit on a few good points; there’s definitely more of a spotlight on Rivers, good and bad, than on a lot of his similarly talented peers. But wasn’t that my point as well? I don’t think I made Rivers out to be a victim per se, nor did he play that card, but I do think it’s reasonable to argue articles about “the problems” with him after two games come off a little ridiculous. You didn’t see that for Q or Wroten, and you honestly wouldn’t expect to.

    When Kidd-Gilchrist — who has been written about here, mind you — goes off, the media forgot about Anthony Davis so fast it would make your head spin. But I also watched live recently as Brad Beal (who I’m a fan of) turned it over seven times while not once going left in a loss to Rutgers. Where were the articles about “The Problems With Beal”? It goes both ways, you know?

  • justsayin

    @Bryan Horowitz: You are absolutely right. It is completely ridiculous for any player of any sport to be subjected to a stringent assessment after only two to five games. Those journalists shouldn’t have done that. But my point is best summarized through this scenario:

    Let’s say me and you were top high school recruits with you ranking above me. You get the most media attention, you declare that you might be a one-and-done player (which Rivers actually HAS stated in an interview) before you even play your first college game, you tout your own nickname (referenced through your jersey number), and you reference yourself as the best player (which he has also done in other interviews). Meanwhile, I receive minimal media attention and only as part of a group of other talented recruits playing for the same team, and the media and critics ackowledge that I am going to have some rough edges while acclimating to the college game. If both of us have a bad game, who do you think is going to get the most criticism? You are!!! Everyone expected me to have a slow start or adjustment, but, because of the above reasons, NO ONE thought you would have any problems. It’s one thing to come into college with the hype surrounding you, but when you play into it with certain comments and attitudes, it only magnifies your weaknesses.

    The problems of the other recruits have been outlined in Internet articles but no one ever sees them because no one ever LOOKS or PAYS ATTENTION to what these talented freshmen are doing. At most, they only view the highlights. (And yes, Beal has been slacking as of lately but he’ll bounce back. Even the best players have their bad games.) Rivers said he wanted to play on the big stage, so can he really complain if his every mistake is a big deal?

    Last but not least: NO ONE EVER FORGETS ANTHONY DAVIS. LOL. Even when MKG went off in the game for Louisville with 24 pts, Anthony Davis was right there with 18 pts., and he got the proper recognition for it. (Not that points are the only important pieces to the game.)

    P.S. Sorry about the “victim” embellishment. I guess that’s the first word came to mind because it seems like even legitimate criticisms of this kid’s game get portrayed as the rumblings of a “hater”. That shouldn’t be because it’s like saying that he is the perfect NBA material, and at this point, I don’t think he is. He still needs improvement. EVERYONE DOES!!!!

  • http://www.sportsangle.com Bryan Horowitz

    @justsayin — I totally hear you. Some players are destined to be lightning rods no matter what, especially if they feed into it, unwittingly or not. For me, it was really more tilting at windmills in terms of how we chew up and spit out storylines faster than ever. I mean, the media was ready to pounce on him the minute he got there, picking apart flaws before he’d been around long enough to discern them as such. You’re right, I get why it’s happening — we’re honestly pretty much on the same page — and don’t expect it to stop. It just doesn’t mean I still can’t find it fairly ridiculous in general.

    Side note: I’m a huge Kidd-Gilchrist apologist, been to maybe 10 high school games. I really meant that AD got tons of pub because of his sheer numbers (deservedly so) while MKG flew relatively under the radar despite being totally awesome. Then MKG puts up 24 and 18 against Louisville, and suddenly everyone “discovers” him.

  • http://www.dimemag.com Austin Burton

    @Bryan — Great points, but being in Seattle and seeing it up-close, just wanted to let you know that Tony Wroten is getting what I think is an unfair amount of criticism.

    Or maybe not “unfair,” but more like “too soon.” Washington fans up here were already putting Wroten in a box — too many turnovers, missess too many free throws, etc. — like 3-4 games into the season without giving him a chance to smooth out some of those rough edges. The fact that Romar wasn’t even putting Wroten in the starting lineup right away should’ve been a clear sign that the coach knew Wroten had some work to do, but still the expectations are sky-high for him.

    Granted, I think a lot of it comes from the fact that most knowledgeable UW fans assume Wroten is a one-and-done, so they know their time to benefit from his skills is limited. From a UW perspective, having Wroten “get it” and reach some of his potential in 2013 isn’t going to do them any good because he’ll probably already be in the NBA by then. So in that sense, I see why his margin for error is smaller. But it’s still frustrating to watch a kid come in and have so little leeway.

  • http://www.sportsangle.com Bryan Horowitz

    @Austin — Interesting! I had no idea Wroten was getting crushed up there like that. Out here, it’s actually like a bizarro East Coast bias, I hear only good things. In fact, when Washington played those games in the Garden, they went nuts for Wroten around here. But yeah, that sounds a lot like what went on with Rivers, and I agree that the knowledge that neither guy is likely to be around that long feeds directly into it.