Winter Park, Fla., senior guard Austin Rivers, a Duke signee who's ranked the No. 1 player in the Class of 2011, was selected Tuesday to play in the 2011 Jordan Brand Classic, scheduled for April 16 at Charlotte's Time Warner Cable Arena.
In an exclusive telephone interview, he talked about his goals for the Jordan Brand and McDonald's All-America games, his plans for improvement, and the effect his father, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, has had on him:
Q: You’ll be playing in some postseason all-star games here soon. What do you want to do in them?
A: Most importantly, win. Everything is more fun and enjoyable when you win. So just, go in there, play hard and win. I think to have fun. . .and strengthen relationships with my friends. A lot of guys [I know] are going to be there. It’s always nice to kick back and relax and hang out with players that are in similar situations that you are. It will be nice to go there, see some guys, compete and play basketball. Hopefully I can just do my thing and come away with a win.
Q: What are your goals between now and when you come to Duke? I guess you’re probably coming in the summer?
A: Just to continue to get better, improve on my skills and just keep developing and getting stronger. That’s my main focus right now, to strengthen my skills and my body.
Q: Any particular skills you feel you need to work on?
A: I’ll say my mid-range as far as, I have a really nice three-ball and a really nice handle where I can get into the paint and finish or dunk on someone or something like that. I think mid-range is always a lost art of the game, so it’s always nice to have everything. I really do have a strong mid-range, but it’s just to work on everything, really, and get ready to have a defensive mind set. With Duke, they pick up a lot of times fullcourt man and Coach K and those [coaches] emphasize defense. That’s one thing I want to get better on.
Q: How much of an influence has your father had on you? You seem to understand the game extremely well. How much is he a part of that?
A: He’s a big part of it. I’ve been around the game my whole life, so I’ve gotten to see and meet and talk to a lot of different NBA players and see how their lives are and how they live. And I grew up around my Dad, who knows the game as well as anybody. He’s always taught me right from wrong as far as basketball, what to say and what not to say, what to do and what not to do. I think just having him in my corner my whole life has been a benefit playing basketball.
Q: You scored 46 points in a game as a high school sophomore? Is that right? How did you do it?
A: I’ve always been a scorer. I’ve always been a great scorer. That’s one thing I’ve always had confidence in myself as far as me thinking I’m better than anybody. I’ve always had a mind set where I’ve always felt you need more than one person to guard me. Especially now that I’m a lot better than I was back then. They basically just played man, and it was just one on one. And that’s not going to work out too well. I got hot. And things got going and shots started falling.
Q: Is that the most you’ve ever scored?
A: Last year, I think I scored 47 against somebody. I’ve scored 40 a lot of times. I think I’ve scored 40 four times this year and five times last year. I think 47 is my high in a high school game.
Q: How did international play [on the USA under-18 select team] help you?
A: That was actually one of the best experiences I’ve had playing basketball, just getting a taste of what it’s like over there [in international basketball]. It’s really similar. The only difference is, you’ve got to be a lot more focused on the defensive end because they take their time to get shots up and they’re really smart basketball players. They’re not as athletic as us over here so what they rely on is their IQ. So you really have to be focused on is the defensive end, which is fun.