Rivers Switches Gears Post Championship

It's been an eventful few weeks for future Blue Devil Austin Rivers. The nation's top guard has won a state championship, been honored as the High School National Player of the Year, and he's talked to his future teammates about everything from the remaining games in Durham to next year's plans.

"Ending the season with a second straight championship was really great," said Winter Park (Fla.) star Austin Rivers. "We battled some really good team and overcame injuries to finish our careers out strong."

In the championship game Rivers scored 25 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and collected four steals to help Winter Park to a 52-44 victory over Orlando (Fla.) Dr. Phillips. It marked the first time in Florida high school basketball history that a class 6A team repeated.

"That's big time for us. To be the first team to go back to back is just a testament to how motivated we were and it shows that hard work pays off. It's exciting to have accomplished a goal, but it's sad as well. I mean we're happy that we went out on top, but it's sad that I'm not going to get to play with these guys again. And then I think that I'm going to Duke, which is hard not to be excited about."

As the nation's top rated guard, and considered by many as the top senior regardless of position, Rivers was every opponent's first priority on defense. Because of that there were many things Rivers spent the year working to improve.

"Really I worked hard to get better every day, and I still am. Specifically I worked on going both ways and finishing with either hand at he basket. Going back to my sophomore year teams used to always force me left. I've worked hard so that I can finish with my left just as well as with my right. It makes it tough for teams to figure out how to guard me."

With high school season now over, Rivers will prepare for a busy "off season" of sorts. It'll include stops at the McDonald's All-American game, Jordan Brand game, and the Hoops Summit game. And then, before heading to Duke, Rivers will compete with Team USA's U19 team.

"It's going to be a really busy summer. I mean the all-star games are always fun and I think I'm looking forward to competing against the best players in the country. It is an all-star game and there's a lot of flashy things happening, but guys really do compete against each other."

On top of being considered among the top high school players in the country, there are additional benefits in being named to these various all-star games.

"It's great because you get to travel and you get to catch up with your friends from the summer and the teams from over the years. I'm looking forward to catching up with my boy Myck Kabongo and seeing my Duke guys like Mike, Marshall, and Quinn. Quinn is going to be my guy next year at Duke and it'll be good to catch up and get ready for the next couple of years."

When he arrives in Durham in the late summer, Rivers will almost immediately begin practicing as the Blue Devils prepare to head to China and Dubai for a preseason tour including several games. It's something the coaching staff has chatted with him about as well as some of his future teammates.

"I'm pretty excited about it because it's somewhere I've never been. It's a chance to see a new part of the world and for our team to come together. Coach Collins and Coach K have talked to me about it and they are excited because it'll give us an early start to learn the system."

One of the bigger questions surrounding that trip will center around who will be playing point guard beside Rivers when the Blue Devils open their preseason tour. Will it be sophomore Tyler Thornton? Freshman Quinn Cook? Or could it be a sophomore Kyrie Irving?

"Honestly I've talked to Kyrie about it and I'll tease him saying he needs to come back and play with me in the backcourt for a year. RIght now he's got a mix mind on everything. I mean it is hard to fault a kid who has a dream of playing in the NBA and is this close to it. He's going to be a really high pick no matter when he comes out and he knows that, but I think he's also torn because he's only played eight games and he wants a chance to be a college basketball player. If he had played a whole season this would be a no-brainer for him and he could leave with no problem, but he is loyal and he loves Duke a lot and wants more of a college experience. I think he's also aware of the lockout which is going to be there and will make a lot of guys have some tough decisions."

Returning to the present and immediate future, Rivers says he's been watching his future program over the last few weeks and he's also catching his usual fill of NBA games. So who are his picks for the Final Four and the NBA Finals?

"I'm not being biased, but I think Duke can make the Final Four again. They need to find some more balance and attack the basket more than they have. They need someone to step up and help Nolan. So I'd have Duke, Ohio State, and Pittsburgh. I want to pick BYU, but I think teams are going to load up on Jimmer, so I'll go with Notre Dame."

And the NBA picks?

"I like the Spurs, but I think the Lakers will take them down in the playoffs. So I'll say it'll be the Lakers from the West and Celtics in the East. With the Celtics winning it all."

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