Basketball season is still two weeks away, but Duke fans had a reason to rejoice on Thursday.
Austin Rivers, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2011, verbally committed to Duke yesterday.
As the 6-foot-4 guard described it, the sudden decision came naturally.
“It was just like a feeling,” Rivers told The Chronicle. “I woke up [Wednesday] morning and was like ‘What is more perfect for me to do?’ I didn’t even talk to anybody. I was just thinking about it and thought about what is most perfect for me. And that’s why I decided to just go ahead and commit.”
The son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers, Austin Rivers joins swingman Michael Gbinije and big men Tyler Adams and Marshall Plumlee in Duke’s 2011 recruiting class, considered by college basketball experts to be one of the best in the country.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment all my life and it’s going to be here pretty soon,” he said. “I’m ready to come in and live up to the high standards.”
Rivers, a senior at Winter Park High School (Winter Park, Fla.), originally announced he would take official visits to his top three choices—North Carolina, Kansas and Duke—before making a commitment. He had scheduled a trip to Chapel Hill for today and planned to visit Kansas Oct. 22.
Yesterday morning, however, he informed Bill Self and Roy Williams that he would not be attending their schools. At 2:00 p.m., he announced to the world, via Twitter, that he would be attending Duke.
“World i have decided to go to duke! Let’s go blue devils ha,” he wrote.
NCAA rules prohibited the Duke sports information department to comment on the verbal commitment. The team, though, went to Twitter like Rivers did, and expressed their happiness.
“Welcome to the family @AustinRivers25!!!” Nolan Smith tweeted.
“Congrats to @AustinRivers25 for committing to the duke blue devils,” Kyrie Irving wrote.
Rivers’s decision capped a long recruitment that began after the five-star playmaker verbally committed to Florida at the end of his freshman season in 2008, but then decommitted and reopened his recruitment during his junior year. He said that Duke soon caught his attention.
“When rumors started that I was decommiting from Florida, Duke started recruiting me,” Rivers said. “I fell in love with the school and program and the people there. I’ve liked Duke for a while now.”
Dave Telep, Scout.com’s national recruiting director, said that Duke had been the favorite to land the blue-chipper for some time.
“Behind the scenes, Duke has been the clubhouse leader,” Telep said. “The timing of it was surprising. But there comes a time when you know what you want and you don’t want to waste anyone’s time anymore.”
Rivers, the first No. 1 player to commit to Duke since 2005, posseses a well-rounded offensive game, and he is known for his deep range and physical drives to the hoop.
“He’s a unique kid,” Scout.com’s Dave Telep told The Chronicle. “You don’t always see this mature a scoring package in a college player, let alone a high school player.”
Rivers averaged 23.9 points per game during his junior season and led Winter Park to its first state championship in school history. He also led his Each 1 Teach 1 AAU squad to the Junior Boys Super Showcase national championship in July, scoring a game-high 24 points in the finals. This summer, he played alongside college freshmen, including Irving, who could be his backcourt mate next year on the USA Basketball U-18 team. This winter, he is considered a favorite to win Florida’s Mr. Basketball honor.
Rivers said he is excited to show off his talents on the hardwood of Cameron Indoor Stadium. He plans to visit Duke again for Countdown to Craziness on Oct. 15, a year before he puts on the Blue Devil jersey for the first time.
“I’m going to be psyched. I’ve never been to a Duke atmosphere like that so I’m excited to see what it’s like,” he said. “I’ve never seen the fans—only on TV—so I hope they like me.”