There is no doubt that when Austin Rivers came to Duke he was a scorer and that pretty much was his claim to fame. Rivers was a good basketball player, but his game was a bit one dimensional. Granted that dimension is one major factor why he was one of, and in some cases, the top recruit in the class of 2011. But overall his game wasn't complete.
He was cocky, and as I have criticized here at the Duke Sports Blog, a bit too demonstrative at times in the face of adversity. Cocky is one thing, but pouting and giving sideways looks at referees when you don't get a call isn't something that was very becoming.
But already nine games into his freshman season Rivers' game is starting to show signs of maturation beyond just a scorer. And that early attitude he has flashed from time to time is showing less and less.
Winning of course might have something to do with that but coaching more than likely is the biggest cause for his growth as a player.
Rivers sited Mike Krzyzewski as one of the reasons he came to Duke. He felt Krzyzewski would make him an all-around player and so far it looks like that is what is happening.
Initially in the season Rivers would catch the ball it was pretty much a given he was going to shoot or drive and shoot. And while Rivers is a pretty good shooter, his ability to drive and get to the basket is what makes him a potentially great player.
But defenses being much better in college than high school were beginning to collapse around him when he would drive. While in high school, Rivers was it, the guy, the one to take most of the shots. At Duke he doesn't have to be and that has taken him a few games to learn.
He has played some good games, but by far, to me, his best performance came against Colorado State. Not so much for what he did but how he did it.
His stat line wasn't anything special: He scored 17 points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal. However, he recorded only one foul and had two turnovers. The line doesn't show but for anyone who watched he played in control.
What also didn't end up showing in the stat line was his ability to get into the lane and when he realized that the defense had him surrounded and he didn't have a shot, he found open guys to kick the ball to.
Granted Rivers often finds a way to weave through defenders once he is past the initial defender with his first step, that ability to see the floor and find open guys is going to propel his game to that next level.
His ability to score makes him dangerous but his ability to get past defenders, force others to come to him and then find open shooters or big men makes him deadly as an offensive weapon.
And it is clear that Krzyzewski's focus on defense is starting to rub off on Rivers who at times looked vulnerable this year on the defensive end. But he is learning and getting better and showing an intensity on the defensive end of the floor that has likely never been seen out of a guy known mostly for scoring points.
And not one time do I remember him playing out of control against the Rams. Not one time do I remember him flipping a glance at an official. And the fact that he ended up with only one foul means he was clearly playing more with much more control on both ends of the floor.
The year is still young and so is Rivers. I suspect there may be a relapse or two, but all criticisms aside, the kid is a special talent who once he puts it all together will be an excellent college player if not one of the very best.
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