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Duke's Austin Rivers Has No Animosity Toward His Critics

DURHAM, NC - NOVEMBER 18:  Austin Rivers #0 of the Duke Blue Devils dribbles up the court against the Davidson Wildcats during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on November 18, 2011 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Ro ShiellAnalyst IOctober 20, 2016

Austin Rivers has had a solid start to his career at Duke. They are undefeated and are the current champions of the Maui tournament.

Plus, he was part of a team that saw Coach K become the winningest coach in Division I men’s basketball.

But that’s not enough for the critics. They all anticipate some impending disappointment, nevermind that the freshman is currently averaging 14 points, 2.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Gabe Zaldivar compared Rivers to Jimmer Fredette and said he is overrated. Apparently, as a sports fan he was expecting coach K “to take a breather” because of all the things he read about Austin.

To be fair, sometimes writers do paint overzealous pictures, but as readers we should realize the limitations of freshman players.

Carmelo Anthony and Gerry McNamara led Syracuse to a championship as freshmen, but that was a very rare occasion.

Grantland, a part of ESPN, took the criticism further. They analyzed the play of the No. 3 rated recruit in the 2011 class, three games into his college campaign, and published their findings for the world to see.

Had they done this for Anthony Davis and Andre Drummond, the No. 1 and No. 2 recruits respectively, that assessment might have been easier to swallow. But Rivers has taken it nicely in stride.

"I never ever worry about it. Those people's jobs are to critique,” said Rivers. “The coaches and my teammates are happy with the way I'm playing. It's sports, and there's nothing I can do about it. I'm not going to call ESPN and be like, 'Hey, can you stop that?' I see it as motivation, and they will be wrong by the end of the year."

Just as there are people are people willing to hype a recruit, there are just as many waiting to tear that player down. It is the nature of the business.

Players can’t focus on these things. They have to make sure their immediate environment is supportive—and Rivers has the support of his teammates and coach.

Rivers was named ACC Rookie of the Week for a second time this season for his play in the Maui Invitational tournament.

Tonight he has a big game playing Ohio State in the ACC/Big Ten challenge.

He will be matched up against either senior William Buford or Aaron Craft, a very good on ball defender, in a game in which Duke won’t be the favored team.

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