Austin Rivers just hit another three from really far away
by Andrew Kennedy
I would know, because I was there. And so would Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, because he was too.
This was the second time this month that I have been feet away from a basketball legend. While this wasn’t as big of a deal as MJ, it was still pretty cool staring at the profile of Coach K and watching person after person walk up to him and shake his hand.
But a bigger deal than Coach K’s presence was the performance put on by Rivers. He’s just a junior now but I think he might just be the best high school basketball player I have ever seen play in person, and that’s saying a lot.
It was a perfect atmosphere for the game. Winter Park had to go on the road after being upset in the district final. It was a big gym and was just about full with a very large and loud student section. If that wasn’t enough, the game was being televised by Brighthouse Sports Network.
Rivers began the game missing his first 3-point attempt. Winter Springs came out with a lot of energy forcing a few turnovers and led 11-2 early. But then Rivers made a driving layup and everything changed.
He went on to make six-straight 3-pointers, all with a man in his face and all from around NBA range, if not deeper. It was ridiculous. The crowd was immediately taken out of the game and Winter Springs had no chance for a comeback.
The stretch of 3-pointers was without a doubt the greatest single-handed performance I have ever seen in a high school game.
This was the second time that Rivers went over 40 points in a televised game this month. The prior was against Pinecrest and Brandon Knight in a game televised nationally on ESPN2. In that game, Rivers outdueled Knight for the win but Knight finished with more points, 48-41.
For awhile now I’ve felt like Knight was the best high school hoops player I have ever seen but Rivers is really starting to sway me toward him.
Knight is a textbook player and athlete but Rivers has something more special going on. Both are outstanding ball handlers but Rivers might have a slight edge in acceleration and blowing by defenders after lulling them to sleep. When you first look at the two, Knight seems like the obvious choice in the ball handling and speed department but Rivers holds his own and might be better.
Rivers is also a better shooter and scorer and has the ability to score with a man in his face 30-feet from the basket. He takes the same shots Kenny Boynton took in high school but makes them more often.
Rivers seems to have more upside than Knight too. You can kind of see the type of player Knight will be. He will be a great athletic point guard who plays amazing defense and can penetrate with the best of them.
But I’m a little unsure with Rivers. I’m not sure exactly what I’m witnessing right now with him. With the way in which he scores, it really doesn’t matter what kind of defense he is facing. He can get his shot off whenever he wants because of his 6-foot-4 size and elevation of his jump-shot. And he’s so quick and great at step-backs that a tall, lenky defender doesn’t foil him either.
When he scored 41 against Pinecrest, Knight was guarding him almost the entire game and Knight is an incredible defender. If Rivers grows a few inches, and it looks like he will, he has a chance to be a lottery pick after a one-and-done trip to college, whether it’s Florida or Duke (he has already committed to Florida but Coach K will definitely be going for the robbery).
All I know is I will be seeing him play next this coming Tuesday in a rematch of the district final his team lost. If he goes off again, I’ll be back praising him some more. If he doesn’t, then and only then will I come back down to reality.