Mike Krzyzewski Still Thinks Austin Rivers Will Be a Terrific Player for Duke

Ro ShiellAnalyst INovember 22, 2011

Austin Rivers scored five points in a win over Michigan State and it was because he was playing superior competition. He scored 18 points, defeating another big conference team, last night, and it was considered inefficient.

The weirdest thing is that through all this criticism, Rivers is having a successful start to his college career.

The people that criticize Rivers are actually talking about his NBA potential.

The greatest defense for Rivers is Harrison Barnes’ struggles as a freshman. After five games last year, North Carolina was 3-2. Barnes was averaging a decent 12.2 points and 5.8 rebounds at the time but took a lot of flak for the losses (some bad shooting games did not help either).

Why are we observing college players based on their professional outlook rather than the game in which they are playing? The ultimate goal is to win. Rivers has yet to lose a game for Duke. Isn’t that enough?

He is the second leading scorer for Duke with 14.3 points and 2.4 assists a game.

He can get by his man any time he wants but mostly finishing at the hoop has been a problem. Usually he gets in too deep and gets tangled up for a turnover.

“When you’re a freshman, you start evaluating what you’re doing and sometimes you’re a step slow to the next thing and that’s because you care,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “You want to be good. You’ve just got to get through that.”

Rivers showed some maturity for all to see in last night’s game. He was getting mauled after driving in and the referees were not calling it. He adjusted, started hitting threes, then some mid-range floaters.

That’s the mark of an offensive player being able to adjust on the fly. At least he did not give up as he appeared to do in the Michigan State game.

"This is our fifth game in about 10 days and he's learned a lot. He came through," Krzyzewski said. "He's not afraid. He's going to be a terrific player for us."

Defense is still a work in progress but that is to be expected after only a few months playing in college.

Rivers only had two turnovers last night. Once, he turned the ball over after an errant pass, in the first half, and then let his defender go for an easy layup after the steal.

Any other player might have confounded one mistake with another by chasing that player down and fouling him, giving a possible three point play or even worse, a flagrant one foul!

Rivers calmly ran down the court, as the thief already had a good start on him, collected the ball after the score and started thinking of the next play. That was a veteran move. A terrible mistake, yes, but it was a competitive score line with plenty of time to go.

Rivers shot 6-of-15 the whole game, 2-of-4 from the three-point line. He took and missed a lot of shots but he worried the defense and got Duke into the bonus and they are normally good free throw shooters.

This is what Rivers brings to the table with his slick ball handling skills. He is learning to slow down and read the defense then finish accordingly as shown by his first field goal.

Rivers split two defenders then laid a sweet bunny off the glass for two points. A play he normally struggles to finish.

I can’t imagine Coach Krzyzewski cares about hype or whether his players are overrated or not. He did not win 905 games because he listened to critics!

Why Grantland felt they needed to assess Rivers' game so closely after four games I have no idea! They looked at some fancy stats to conclude that he has struggled, who hasn’t!

Bradley Beal is a highly ranked freshman shooting guard and led Florida with 22 points over Wright State last night. Beal is currently shooting 27 percent from the three-point line. He shot 16 percent (1-of-6) in yesterday’s game.

Marquis Teague is widely considered the best point guard in the class but is currently averaging 10.8 points, 2.8 assists and 4.5 turnovers a game for a very talented Kentucky team.

No. 2 recruit, Andre Drummond can barely stay out of foul trouble and has had one great game for UConn. Against Maine he scored 11 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in 27 minutes. Through four games UConn has yet to play any serious competition.

Anyone who considers these players to be overrated due to these erstwhile statistics, so early in the season, does so at their own peril.