Sunday July 13th, 2008

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. -- A frustrated Austin Rivers flipped off the TV the night of June 12. It was bad enough that a bout with bronchitis kept the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers from flying to see Game 4 of the NBA Finals in person. Now the younger Rivers had to watch the Celtics flounder to a 24-point deficit.

Suddenly, his phone buzzed with a text message direct from Staples Center. "I was about to go to bed," Austin said. "But mom said they were coming back. I turned it back on."

Austin, a silky smooth guard from Winter Park, Fla., missed what might have been the most exciting game of his father's coaching career. At that point, he had missed all but Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals because of a busy basketball schedule and the unexpected illness. So when the Celtics returned to Boston, he wasn't about to stay home. Austin watched his father reach the pinnacle of his sport when the Celtics throttled the Lakers in game six. Not long after the confetti fell, Austin made a decision about his own basketball destiny.

Though he can't sign a letter-of-intent until November 2010 and won't set foot on a college court until 2011, Rivers committed two weeks ago to play at Florida. Saturday, with Florida coach Billy Donovan and assistants Rob Lanier and Shaka Smart looking on, Rivers scored 22 to lead Orlando-based Team Stat 16-under squad to a win against Baltimore-based Team Melo at the Nike Peach Jam.

The scuttlebutt around the Sunshine State is that the 6-foot-3 Austin may grow into a better player than Doc, who starred at Marquette and played 13 seasons in the NBA. Saturday, Austin was all over the court. If he wasn't draining a jumper, he was poking the ball away from his man and feeding teammate James Bell for a dunk or throwing a perfect lob to Bell for another dunk. After the alley-oop, Rivers wisely did not look at Donovan, who, as a general rule, detests the practice.

Rivers said he had little trouble choosing the Gators. "It was a lot of reasons," he said. "For one, it was close to home. It's a good academic school. It's got a great facility. It's a great basketball school. I felt very comfortable there."

The head coach in the family gave his blessing, but Austin said Doc never pressured him to consider any particular school or coach. "He basically just said go with who I feel comfortable with," Austin said. "He loves Florida. He loves Coach Donovan and the staff."

The elder Rivers obviously doesn't mind Gainesville. He already sent his daughter there. Austin's sister, Callie, is a sophomore outside hitter for the Gators' volleyball team. Assuming Callie doesn't redshirt, the siblings will just miss each other.

Two of the nation's top point guard prospects in the class of 2010 spent Saturday morning canceling out one another, but one managed to shake the other long enough to shoot his team to a win. Team Texas guard KC Ross Miller, a Kentucky commitment, nearly dueled to a draw with Boo Williams guard Kendall Marshall, a North Carolina commitment, but Miller's six-point, four-assist stat line included a late jumper that lifted his team to a 66-63 win. Marshall finished with nine points and five assists in the first tournament matchup of two players who likely will see a lot of one another in the next few years.

Saturday's loudest moment came when New York Gauchos forward Tevin Baskin drove baseline and threw down a dunk on a pair of Wisconsin Playground Elite players. After Baskin's dunk, cheering sections for the Gauchos and Playground Elite erupted, while coaches, media and fans sprinted to court No. 3 to investigate the source of the commotion.

Baskin, a 6-foot-7, 190-pounder from Stamford, Conn., has offers from Auburn, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech, UMass and several others. He also has received interest from Arizona, UConn and Providence.

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