Rivers' star shines brightest among galaxy of finds at FIBA tournament
SAN ANTONIO --
• The U.S. assembled a deeply talented roster for this event, but the three guards coach
• Rivers should just reclassify and jump to college now. The 6-foot-3 guard was the most lethal perimeter scorer in the entire tournament, and on Tuesday he set a new U.S. record for points in a FIBA U18 event, dropping 35 on Team Canada (on 9-of-12 long-range shooting). Rivers is a killer three-point shooter off the dribble, using a crossover/step-back combo to create space for his shot or get into the lane, where he's a fluid finisher. On numerous occasions, he reminded me of a Davidson-era
Doc Rivers follows his sons' hoops careers so actively that on at least 11 Celtics off-days this season, he jumped on a private jet following practice, flew to Florida for Austin's games, and then back to Boston the same night. The proud father was a mainstay in the stands at St. Mary's University, even on the day it was announced he was returning to the Celtics for another year. As a career 32.8 percent three-point shooter in the NBA, he would not take credit for Austin's form.
"If I had taught him how to shoot, he wouldn't be able to shoot." Doc said. "Austin developed his own little shot and style, and I remember looking at it three years ago and saying, 'It goes in -- I'm not touching it.' "
Austin has honed his shot in the gym at Rollins College, near the Rivers' home in Winter Park, Fla. The coach there,
• Rivers appears to like Duke -- a lot. He was once committed to Florida, but is now viewed as heavily leaning toward the Blue Devils. Strong evidence of that: When he emerged from the U.S. locker room after Wednesday's win over Brazil, in which he scored 19 points, he was wearing his gold medal over a Duke 2009-10 national champions T-shirt. And he was wearing a pair of official Duke shorts. He said not to read too much into it, but how can you not?
I asked Irving if he had any influence over Rivers' wardrobe, given how well they played off of each other this week, and the prospect of them comprising the most lethal college backcourt in 2011-12. "Honestly?" Irving said. "Those are [Rivers'] shorts, those are his choice to wear them. That's all him."
• Irving, whom I'd only seen in all-star game settings prior to this, was such an effective leader in crunch time against Brazil -- igniting a U.S. rally and finishing with 25 points and 10 rebounds -- that I don't think he'll have much of a learning curve at Duke. As Florida recruit
• Blue is a four-star recruit who came into the FIBA tourney with less name-recognition than Irving, and a four-star (rather than five) rating. But it became clear rather quickly that Blue is an elite combo guard. He's an explosive wing player with a slashing ability and a slick pull-up jumper, and he's great at jumping passing lanes on D and getting out in transition.
• Armed with the FlipCam in press row, I made an amateur highlight reel of the Irving-Rivers-Blue trio in action ...
• The extensive backcourt minutes played by the Irving-Rivers-Blue crew -- as well as Illinois-bound
• Richmond's length and defensive tenacity were such assets that Capel used the Waukegan, Ill., product to contain Brazil's brilliant point guard,
• Florida fans should be getting excited about
• Young will probably have more defensive than offensive value for Florida as a freshman, but he does have an advanced set of moves in the post. In one short sequence of the U.S.-Argentina game, I taped him taking feeds from Irving and effortlessly hitting a righty, and then lefty baby-hook:
Mitchell told SI.com he'll be fine. "Everybody is worried about it," he said, "but I'm good. I finished my ACT and I'm just waiting to hear from the clearinghouse. I have to take tests to get [the transfer credits] back."
• The two most impressive non-American prospects in the tournament both came from Brazil:
"It's pretty much the same situation we faced with
Neto has yet to sign a pro contract in Brazil, and has interest in coming to the states to play college. (He briefly considered coming to the U.S. for high school last season, as well.) If he does land in the NCAA in 2011-12, he could be the best foreign point guard to hit D-I since Australian
• Since there's little-to-no chance you'll be seeing Nogueira or Neto on ESPN this season, I'll leave you with a few FlipCam highlights ... and an example of how Brazilians celebrate basketball victories. The U.S. reaction to its gold medal was subdued compared to Brazil's party after beating Argentina in the semis: