Rivers Targets A Pre-Season Decision

What a summer it's been for Winter Park (Fla.) standout Austin Rivers. From the AAU circuit to the team leader of USA Basketball and then back to AAU the 6'4 combo guard has been dominant on a number of levels. With his summer schedule winding down it's time to focus on the next step of his hoops career…picking a school.

"Honestly I'm going to get it done before the beginning of my high school practices," said Austin Rivers of his pending decision. "I'm going to decide between Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, and Florida."

The fall timeline is the latest offered by the five star prospect, and he believes it's one that will stick for a number of reasons.

"I know I've changed my mind on timelines a few times, but when you get asked about it so much it's hard to really make up your mind. I've been thinking about [the decision] at times and I mainly want to make sure I'm comfortable with the coaches, the players, and the school in general."

After backing out of his commitment to Florida earlier this year, Rivers admits that he's had moments of wanting to go ahead and re-commit. However, he's getting some good advice from a family member.

"My brother has talked to me about it and told me to make sure. He told me to speak up and talk to the coaches. That way everyone is on the same page going in. When I pick my school I want to head there to achieve at a high level and be somewhere I can succeed."

The first set of recruiting visits will take place in the coming weeks when he makes a weekend trip to North Carolina. After that he hopes to trip to Kansas and Kentucky as well.

"I'm supposed to go up to North Carolina to visit the school, and I'll drop by Duke again as well. You can do those in a weekend. After that - probably a few weeks later - I'll try to visit Kansas and Kentucky. It all depends on my schedule with everything."

Before these visits occur, however, Rivers says he has a general idea of what each program is all about.

"They all play a very high tempo style. Florida and Duke both shoot a lot of threes as well. With Duke they have their big guys rebound and they look to kick it back to the guards. Their guards have a lot of freedom, which is attractive to anyone who is a guard. Wherever I go I want it to be a place that challenges me to play defense. Each of those coaches has a reputation for teaching defense and pushing their players."

Usually the summer before a senior season a prospect will make the rounds to the various summer camps and clinics while balancing the demands of the AAU circuit. But not Rivers who, instead, spent a vast majority of his summer playing for Team USA at the FIBA U18 Americas tournament. The commitment caused him to miss a number of events, but it's something that appears to be a growing trend among the elite prospects.

"I think you're going to see more and more players working toward playing for Team USA. Over the last few years it's gotten a lot bigger with guys. Guys want to play with U-S-A on their chest. In AAU ball it's about showcasing your skills and just playing another tournament. But for Team USA we had fans cheering us on. We had the gym chanting "U-S-A" and we were representing our country. It was an awesome feeling."

National pride aside, there are other reasons to forego your AAU season for the red, white, and blue.

"Obviously everyone wants to play in the Olympics because that's the biggest stage around, and this wasn't quite on that level - but it's as close as guys our age can get. It's a great way to prepare for college. You go to camp. You live in dorms with your teammates, and everything is planned out for you. Plus the coaches really put you to work. We were practicing for nearly three hours a session, twice a day. I think the guys who played for Coach Capel and the entire staff will have a good idea of what the next level will bring."

Once camp broke and the team headed to the competition, Rivers and company went to work and eventually brought home the gold with Austin leading the team in scoring at 20.2 points per game while playing just 23 minutes a game alongside Duke's Kyrie Irving. Certainly a high points per game average was nothing new for Rivers, but it was the task he earned from Coach Capel that sparked a sense of pride.

"When I got into camp I wanted to prove that I could excel on the defensive side of the ball. I have kinda gotten tired of hearing that I don't play defense, so I worked hard from the moment I got there. Coach Capel said when he played that Coach K would always assign his best player to defend the other team's best guy. I kind of took that as a challenge and made it a point to get down and play defense every time I got on the court. When we started playing the games, Coach told me I was going to check the other team's top guard. It was really a mindset that I learned and want to keep pushing in high school and on the next level."

Returning to the idea of a cost-benefit analysis of playing Team USA over AAU ball, Rivers says the chance to see the style of play of the different countries provided his team another look at the next step of their careers.

"The international teams were really organized. They were also really physical. When you went into the lane you had to prepare yourself to take contact and make a play knowing it was coming. On offense those teams are so organized. They seemed to get the best shot selection possible. All of them can shoot as well. You really had to concentrate because they'd set so many screens and run the clock efficiently. It's not like that at AAU. There everyone is so athletic and it's kind of unorganized at times. You can really get an idea of what guys are going to do without really thinking about it, but that doesn't work or necessarily prepare you as well as real games and competition."

With so much of his summer taken up with his international commitment, Rivers had very little time to finish out the summer - which he did in Orlando at the AAU nationals in front of several coaches. Save one.

"I saw all the coaches there, but not Coach K. I talked to him about it and he apologized for not being there in person, but I told him not to. He's got things that are so much more important than an AAU tournament going on with Team USA camp kicking off. What he's doing is so much bigger. I think I'm going to head up to MSG to see them play France in a few weeks."

Whichever program earns Rivers' commitment in the coming months will have an obviously overjoyed fan base, but it'll be a double-edged sword given Austin's pronouncements of desiring to be one and done.

"I have talked to all the coaches about being one and done. And they have all been very good and open with me. They have told me they know I have that kind of potential and if I play really well and push myself as hard as I can that I may end up as a lottery pick. They've all told me that if I'm in that position they will do everything they can to support me."

Which is exactly what it'd take to limit Rivers to just one season in college hoops.

"I'm not in a rush to get to the NBA at all. I know I will have great input from the coaching staff and from my dad's contacts. I want to go in the top five, and if that takes one year or four years I'm going to prepare and make myself better. I know some guys go early because of financial reasons, and others go early because they are just in a rush to be a professional. For me, I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where I can go to a program that will challenge me and make me better each and every day. If it's the right program I think I'll be able to see where I stack up after a year, but there are so many variables to consider."

"One thing people forget is that not everyone is a John Wall or a Derrick Rose. Or even Tyreke Evans. Those guys were able to excel because they picked a system that worked for them. But not everyone has their skill sets or their gifts. Because of that not everyone can go play for Coach Cal and be one and done because not everyone is John Wall or Derrick Rose. That's why you have to do your research and make sure you find the right system for you."

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