In the biggest game on the biggest stage of the young season, one of Duke’s most talented players just didn’t have it.
Freshman Austin Rivers struggled throughout the early season match up with Michigan State and no matter how hard he tried he just couldn’t get things going, and it showed.
On more than one occasion you could see the frustration written all over his face. His body langauge was demonstrative and borderline pouty. In many ways he reminds me of a young Bobby Hurley when he was a freshman at Duke.
When Hurley would make a mistake there was no doubt because he would get this very distinct pouty look about him. Rivers, for the time being has a very similar look when things are going his way.
But he is a freshman so that is expected, but as talented as he is and as much as Duke might depend on him this season, he needs to mature and grow up fast.
He struggled with Michigan State’s physicality and could not get anything going offensively. He often ended up on the floor on drives but rather than getting up quickly, he spent a good amount of time talking to the refs asking for a foul and not getting back as fast on defense.
First lesson for the young star would be let your Hall of Fame coach give the refs the business, you just play the game.
Rivers is a special talent without a doubt but he, at times, seems to be pressing to show everyone watching how good he is. He has been compared or at least been warned to be weary of the freshman slump that plagued UNC’s Harrison Barnes last year.
Barnes more or less wasn’t aggressive e enough and seemingly deferred too much to his teammates. By middle of the year though, he was taking more of an aggressive approach and it paid off.
Rivers by contrast, doesn’t seem to have issues with being aggressive, rather staying aggressive. When something goes awry he seems more likely to fall back instead of continuing to plug away.
He played the second fewest minutes of the three games Duke has played so far, though against Presbyterian where he played only 21 minutes the game was pretty much over by halftime.
Against Michigan State though, Rivers was whistled for four fouls which limited his time on the floor to only 23 minutes. Against Belmont, Rivers played 38 minutes.
His scoring also dropped drastically as he scored 16 and 15 points respectively in the first two games shooting 47 percent combined. Against the Spartans he only scored 5 points and shot just 14 percent.
Now while the sample size is small to draw any definitive conclusions and this was only one game, it allowed everyone to see Rivers on an off day, and more than likely there will be more.
Rivers’ game isn’t something that drastically needs to be fixed but his attitude toward adversity does. He is young and he will learn, so it isn’t a huge cause for concern, and he certainly has a pretty good coach who has a track record with these sorts of things.
His strongest ability is driving to the basket. What he needs to learn to do more effectively is to drive and draw the contact instead of just falling to the ground when any one is around and hope for a foul call. This will come with experience.
He certainly will benefit from not pouting at an official and asking for a call because we all know officials talk and they likely won’t give him the benefit of the doubt from game to game if he has that kind of reputation.
In the short term he can and will learn from that but I look forward to seeing him grow and mature. And hey Austin, another year in college wouldn’t hurt your game either.