Thursday, February 02, 2012
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Duke's Austin Rivers is self-made man

Duke freshman Austin Rivers, son of NBA coach Doc Rivers, is working hard to make a name for himself as the top scorer for the Blue Devils.

Duke's Austin Rivers is averaging a team-high 14.1 points and a team-best 30.8 minutes this season. He was named ACC rookie of the week for the fifth time this season Monday.

Photos by The Associated Press

Duke's Austin Rivers is averaging a team-high 14.1 points and a team-best 30.8 minutes this season. He was named ACC rookie of the week for the fifth time this season Monday.

Duke freshman Austin Rivers was the USA Today, Parade and Naismith national high school player of the year.

Duke freshman Austin Rivers was the USA Today, Parade and Naismith national high school player of the year.

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Yes, Austin Rivers' father is the coach of the Boston Celtics.

But that doesn't mean the Duke freshman isn't just as much of a self-made man as any other college basketball player.

"I think I'm more [self-made] than anybody, to tell you the truth," Rivers said in a phone interview this week.

Doc Rivers has coached the Celtics since 2004, and guided them to the NBA championship in 2008.

But while he was coaching up in Boston or steering the Celtics on the road, his wife and children were living in suburban Orlando, Fla.

"My dad was gone. I had to work harder than anybody else," said Rivers, whose seventh-ranked team will visit Virginia Tech tonight. "I didn't have him all the time - [he was] rarely there. Anytime he could, he would be there, so I always love him and appreciate my dad for that, but ...  it's been even harder for me than a normal kid.

"I had my mom there and my family there and I had friends ... but as far as a father goes, he was away. So I had to do a lot of things on my own.

"I had to work even harder because at the end of the day, if I had a 30-point game, someone would be like, 'Oh, you just had 30 because your dad's Doc Rivers.'"

When people would view his accomplishments as merely a result of his family tree, it drove Rivers even more.

"I used that as motivation to work harder and become my own man and kind of step out of that shadow," Rivers said. "I think I've done that and I need to keep doing that."

Maybe one day, the off-guard said with a laugh, people will go up to his father and say, "Aren't you Austin's father?"

Rivers is already making his mark with the Blue Devils (18-3, 5-1 ACC), who have five players averaging double figures in scoring. He is averaging a team-high 14.1 points and a team-best 30.8 minutes. He might finish the season as only the third freshman to lead Duke in scoring, joining Bill Saap (1945) and Johnny Dawkins (1983).

On Monday, he was named the ACC rookie of the week for the fifth time this season.

His father was known as Glenn Rivers when he played for Marquette in a 1983 game at Cassell Coliseum. He played in the NBA for 13 seasons, becoming an All-Star. He coached the Orlando Magic from 1999-2003.

"He's been a great father," Rivers said. "He's always been there for me, even though he's been busy. My mom has been Superwoman. She's the reason I'm here today."

Rivers said he has 30-minute phone conversations with his father every other day. They talk about their family, and his father dispenses "positive advice" about basketball.

Last season, Rivers was named the USA Today, Parade and Naismith national high school player of the year. He averaged 29.2 points and led Winter Park (Fla.) to a second straight state title. He was a McDonald's All-American, just like his dad.

He picked Duke over North Carolina and Kansas.

"Duke's been the best place for me, and I think it's because it's been the toughest place to be," Rivers said. "They're going to be on you the most. They're going to make you work the hardest. I think it's harder to go to Duke. At the end of the day, it helps you become more of a man and it helps you become a better player.

"And I think you win more at Duke," Rivers said with a laugh.

Rivers' season hit a bump last month.

He had eight points and was 3-of-10 from the field in Jan. 7 win over Georgia Tech. He scored 11 points the following game against Virginia, but he had just four points and was 2-of-7 from the field in a Jan. 15 win over Clemson.

"All season, things had been going great, everything's been fun, and then ... I just ... struggled," he said. "In high school and AAU and all that stuff in the past, it never really happened."

Coach Mike Krzyzewski did not start him in the next game, a Jan. 19 win over Wake Forest. Coming off the bench for the only time this season, Rivers had 20 points in 32 minutes.

"The coaches wanted to jump-start me. They wanted me to almost get kind of [ticked] off," Rivers said. "They wanted to see how strong mentally I was. They were testing me. They wanted to see what I could give back to the team, if I was just going to lay down. I didn't. ... I took the challenge."

But Rivers was indeed ticked off when he did not start that game.

"I was, 'cause that's never happened to me before," he said. "It's something that has taught me a valuable lesson, and that's to never take anything for granted.

"Ever since then, I'm trying to make sure ... I do the little things and I continue to become a better player.

"It really did bother me. And I told Coach K ... that it would never happen again."

Rivers has been back in the starting lineup the past three games.

"He's been stronger in his offensive moves," Krzyzewski said. "He has to keep getting better defensively.

"He's still a work in progress."

Rivers said the adjustment to college basketball has been hard.

"There's going to be games where after the game, you're like, 'Man, what did I just do?'" he said. "I'm looking to elevate everything I've done †play even harder."

One of his father's players, Celtics star Paul Pierce, gave Rivers some good advice last year: Don't settle.

"He was like, 'You were a great player in high school, you were national player of the year, you were McDonald's [All-American]. So was I. So was a couple players on this bus. Don't let that be your story. Don't ever settle. You don't want to be a guy that's a great high school player and then that's it. ... You want to be known as a great player at all levels,'" Rivers said.

"It kind of opened my eyes - Wow, I really haven't achieved anything yet."

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