Austin Rivers recruiting: Winter Park's Austin Rivers picks Duke
Winter Park's basketball star has canceled recruiting trips to Kansas and North Carolina
Winter Park senior guard Austin Rivers will take his high-flying act to Duke, orally committing to the Blue Devils and deciding not to take visits to Kansas and North Carolina. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel)
"It was a decision I came to (Wednesday night)," Rivers said. "I went with my heart. I really love Duke. I really feel like I fit."
Rivers is scheduled to go to Duke on the weekend of Oct. 15 to take part in the Blue Devils' "Countdown to Craziness" festivities that signal the start of practice for the 2010-11 season. That event will be featured in ESPN's Midnight Madness coverage.
"It's a high bar and a high standard at Duke," Rivers said. "I'm not afraid to strive to meet that. I love pressure."
Rivers, a 6-foot-4 senior shooting guard, enters his senior season as the favorite to win Florida's Mr. Basketball honor and as a top contender for national player-of-the-year awards. He has scored 1,967 career points for Winter park and is rated by Rivals.com and ESPN as the No. 1 senior prospect in the country.
The son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers averaged 23.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists in leading the Wildcats (29-6) to last season's Class 6A state championship — a first for the program. He added 37 points in a win over Christ School of North Carolina and 26 in a semifinal loss to Montverde Academy at the ESPN Rise postseason National High School Invitational.
Rivers further enhanced his resume on the national stage over the summer. He starred alongside current college freshman for the world champion USA Basketball 18-under team and then averaged 26.3 points per game in leading his Each 1 Team 1 travel team to an 8-0 championship sweep at the AAU Jr. Boys Super Showcase.
Rivers led the U.S. in scoring (20.2 points per game) and steals (2.0) in the FIBA world junior tournament while ranking second in minutes played (23.0) and third in field goal percentage (.583). He set a tournament record by making nine consective 3-point shots and a Team USA record with 35 points in a 122-89 semifinal rout of Canada.
Rivers orally committed to Florida in July, 2008, as a 15-year-old coming out of a freshman season in which he averaged 14 points for a 28-2 team. The Gators had won back-to-back NCAA titles (2006 and 2007) and Austin's sister, Callie, had just finished her freshman year as a UF volleyball player. Rivers became the youngest player to commit to Billy Donovan in his coaching career.
But Duke, which lost an NCAA Tournament first round game in 2007 and a second round game in 2008, worked its way into the picture and climbed to the top of Rivers' list as it returned to championship status.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski has a 795-220 record in 30 seasons at Duke, including national titles in 1991, 1992, 2001 and last season.
"I felt like Duke's always on that prime stage," Rivers said. "For years and years to come. I think we're going to be on a prime time stage."
Rivers reopened his recruitment in the fall of his junior year and toured Duke's facilities with his mother and younger brother. He added North Carolina as a third possibility last March and then added Kansas. Rivers eliminated the Gators last week when he announced his official visit plans.
Those included trips to UNC this week and to Kansas, Oct. 21-22 — both now cancelled.
"I've always been a big fan of when a player knows where he wants to go, he should make his decision at that time," said Winter Park coach David Bailey. "Each player is going to have a different timetable for that. It was time for Austin.
"He thought long and hard about it. I think he made a great decision."
Duke also has a commitment from another standout shooting guard, 6-6 Michael Gbinije, of Richmond, Va., Benedictine. Gbinije is ranked No. 31 on the Rivals.150 senior prospect list.
"I'm not worried about anybody taking my spot," Rivers said. "Everywhere you go there's going to be top players. Michael is a very good player but he doesn't really play the same position as I do."
Read Buddy Collings' Varsity blog at orlandosentinel.com/varsityblog and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.