Rivers could be more than a family star

Not every athlete can succeed at the highest level and do it while playing in the shadow of an NBA champion.

And when it’s your father, it’s that much more overwhelming for someone who has yet to even graduate high school.

For Austin Rivers, it serves as just a bigger challenge for him to overcome in the coming years.

"Hopefully I can make it there," he says with a sense of confidence in his voice.

But even before college, the son of Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers is showing that he’s capable of eventually accomplishing such greatness at the NBA level.

"I just got to keep it moving and keep it going," he continues.

Last season, he led Winter Park (Fla.) to the school’s first-ever state championship with monster scoring outputs that included 45 points against top-notch St. Benedict’s (Newark, N.J.) and 41 points against Kentucky freshman Brandon Knight and Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.).

And if the 24.3 points per game he averaged as a junior wasn’t impressive enough, the record 35 points he dropped on Canada this summer at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship was further proof of how special he could be someday.

"He’s far better than I was at the same age," Doc says. "I have no problem with that. I’m all for it."

Still, the 6-foot-4 sharpshooter, who ranks No. 3 in Scout.com’s Class of 2011 and No. 1 among shooting guards, must live in the shadow of his father for the time being.

Doc, for one, played 14 years in the NBA and led the Celtics to their 17th championship in 2008 as head coach. This past season, he came within one win of another NBA title after unexpectedly reaching the Finals against the Lakers.

In the meantime, Austin continues to dazzle more and more of his followers, most recently making his mark on YouTube with a nasty crossover move against former Kentucky star John Wall, the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft, during a pick-up game last month.

While the younger Rivers has played down the video since then, it’s why he could be more than just the best player in his family and quite possibly the best player in the Class of 2011.

"It’s an honor that people think that (could happen), but I’ve got to stay hungry and humble," he says. "At the end of the day, I haven’t reached my goal yet. Being a great high school player is one thing, but being a great NBA player is another."

Doc never truly reached that elite level during his NBA playing career, but he’s certainly found a great deal of success on the sidelines.

After all, in his first year on the bench, he won NBA Coach of the Year honors after almost leading the Magic, a team picked to finish last in the Eastern Conference, to a playoff berth.

For the next three seasons, Doc took Orlando to the postseason — a sign that his best talent may be coaching and motivating.

When he’s on the court, Austin appears to have that same kind of impact. With little missing from his offensive arsenal, he plays the game with a rare savvy that not many of his peers can currently match.

"He works on it," Doc says. "He deserves everything he gets."

Yet so does Doc.

So, for Austin, the comparisons will be there for quite a while. Of course, not every high school senior can successfully live in the shadow of his father. It’s just that Austin doesn’t want to — and it sure doesn’t look like he’ll have to for too long.

"At the end of the day, he’s a father and I’m his son," Austin says. "I just work on my own game."

Believe it or not, he’s done it, for the most part, without the help of his father, who’s often too busy with his own obligations to instruct Austin on a daily basis.

"I’m kind of a loner type of dude when it comes to basketball," he admits. "It’s got me to where I am now."

Doc, meanwhile, is just there to make sure his son stays hungry.

"I always remind him that you’ve got to keep working," the 48-year-old father of four says. "You can’t live on what you’ve done. You’ve got to do something in the future."

For now, it’s brought Austin interest from blue-blood schools such as Duke, North Carolina, Kansas and Kentucky.

And after seeing his older brother Jeremiah transfer from Georgetown to Indiana in the middle of his college career, Austin needed to reopen his recruitment after committing to Billy Donovan and Florida more than two years ago.

"I only have one chance to make a decision," he says. "I wanted to make sure I made the right decision. I just felt like it was really good for me to look at other schools."

With his first official visits coming up next month on Tobacco Road, Austin may be getting closer to a decision — one that many believe could favor Mike Krzyzewski and national champion Duke.

Whether the Blue Devils can cut down the nets again in April, however, won’t determine where Austin plays basketball in 2011-12.

"They won the national championship when I wasn’t playing so it could be a whole different situation," he says. "They could win this year, too, and then have me come in and lose all their games."

The statement was another sign of Austin’s humility, one that has kept him on the straight and narrow and pushes him to be better each day.

But the reality is, should he end up in Durham one year from now, the prospect of Duke winning all its games remains the more likely scenario.

Original Publish Date: September 6, 2010