Entering his senior season, Austin Rivers sits atop the charts of various scouting services as the top player in the country. The Florida native, and Blue Devils signee, has gotten off to a great start with his school, Winter Park. Currently Winter Park is 7-1, with one more game before the head into the City of Palms tournament where the Duke staff will be on hand to watch him. Austin is averaging 29.8 points per game while shooting an incredible 59% from the field including 47% from beyond the arc. Austin also sports a season high of 46 points against Montverde Academy. BDN got a chance to catch up with the future Duke superstar to hear his thoughts on his season, Duke and USA Basketball. Here’s what he had to say:
BDN: It’s been awhile since we last spoke and since then you inked with the Blue Devils. Can you give us some thoughts about that?
AR: It feels great just knowing where I’m going, especially a school such as Duke. I’m really excited to get there.
BDN: Being one of the top players in the country do you find others are trying to make a name for themselves against you?
AR: Oh yeah, of course. For the past couple of years people have been coming hard at me trying to make a name off of me. It makes everything more challenging and more fun to play. I think it is way more interesting to play against somebody who is coming for your spot and wants to knock you off. I enjoy it, it’s all good.
BDN: Your team, Winter Park, has had a great start to the season so far. What do you accredit this fast start to?
AR: I would say the hard work we put in before the season started. Everybody did a lot of conditioning. We ran a lot and got in the weight room and everybody was really working. I think we’re off to a great start heading into the City of Palms, and we are really confident and believe we can do well there.
BDN: You put up a big game the other night with 43 points. I also noticed you guaranteed it before the game. Did you just have a feeling going into this game?
AR: It was just really for fun. I was just talking to the camera guy and we’re just messing around. I was just saying it for fun and I actually ended up getting pretty hot and scoring 40 in three quarters. I like to have fun when I play basketball and I play better because of that.
BDN: Now you’re brother got called up this year and had a chance to play with you on the varsity team. Did he ask you for any pointers, and if so, what did you tell him?
AR: Nah, he didn’t really ask me for any pointers. The only thing I told him was just to relax and just have fun. I believe when people have fun, loosen up, and not be wound up and nervous they play better. That’s what he did and he played well.
BDN: Have you been able to watch Duke this season and what are your thoughts on the team?
AR: Yeah, I’ve watched most of the games. They look great right now. The sky is the limit for them. It’s going to be harder for them without Kyrie but I think they can still do it. They have a great team with great leaders so I think they still look good.
BDN: Have you had a chance to speak with Kyrie since his injury? Have you given him any advice?
AR: Yeah, absolutely. I’ve talked to him a couple of times just checking how he is physically and mentally. I told him to just keep his head up and keep working hard. He’s a great player so he shouldn’t have to worry about anything. It happens to certain players where they get injured but he has nothing to look down about. The great players have always come back and done just fine. You look at a player like Amar’e Stoudemire who has torn all types of ligaments and hyper-extended things, and now, if you had to choose an MVP in the NBA he would probably be it right now. I just told him to keep going and don’t worry. Injuries happen in sports and he is a great player so he’ll bounce back no problem.
BDN: Absolutely. We all wish him the best. Now flipping it around a little bit, have any of the players given you any advice on what to expect next year?
AR: They told me it’s a different level. Not just Duke but college basketball in general. They just tell me it’s a different speed in comparison to high school. You really notice it when you start practicing how much quicker, strong, and better everyone is. It’s kind of like playing in an All-Star game everyday cause everybody there is the top players.
BDN: Have you gotten a chance to speak with any of the coaches recently?
AR: Yea I have. We’ve just talked about basketball and how everything is going and how Kyrie is doing. Just basically how Duke is doing.
BDN: Switching back to high school for a second. You won a state championship last year and I’m sure this is one of your goals this year, but do you have any individual goals you’d like to accomplish in your senior year?
AR: Well our main goal right now is to win state of course, and to get invited to the National Title and hopefully win that as well. As far as individually, I see myself as Mr. Florida, Gatorade National Player of the Year as well as USA Today Player of the Year. I think I’m pretty good in regards to those I just have to keep doing what I do and I believe I should do just fine.
BDN: Good luck with those! Will you be attempting to make any trips to Duke this year if possible?
AR: Hopefully I can. My schedule is kind of crazy right now but as soon as I have time I’m going to try and make it up there. But my schedule is getting hectic now and that is really what I’m trying to concentrate on now. I still have another year to get better so that is what I’m focused on.
BDN: Heading into another direction of basketball, will you be playing for USA Basketball this year? And can you talk about your past experience with the team?
AR: Yeah, it looks like right now I’ll definitely be playing for Team USA. It is definitely a great experience playing with FIBA and getting to play against different countries. It gives you the chance to work and get better, it really is great. I’m really looking forward to that as far as this summer goes. It is a great experience getting to represent your country and put the USA across your chest.
BDN: I appreciate your time Austin and good luck with the rest of your season.
AR: Thank you very much.