March 10, 2012; Atlanta, GA USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Austin Rivers (0) shoots against Florida State Seminoles guard Deividas Dulkys (4) during the first half of the semi-finals of the 2012 ACC Men

2012 NBA Draft: Austin Rivers is the ‘alpha dog’ of this draft class

Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Anthony Davis will be selected first overall tonight in the 2012 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Hornets. Then we will hear names like Thomas Robinson, Bradley Beal, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Harrison Barnes.

Austin Rivers will sit and watch these players walk to the stage, shake hands with the commissioner and put on that hat as their dreams come true a few minutes before his does.

Rivers won’t like it, seeing other players drafted before him. In his eyes, he’s the best player that will be drafted tonight.

Rivers was known within the recruiting circles since before he started playing high school basketball. As the son of Boston Celtics head coach, Doc Rivers, it wasn’t hard for Rivers to get on the map.

Once the rankings started coming out for Rivers’ high school class, his name could be found right there at the top of the list. It stayed that way through Rivers’ high school career and by the time he was a senior, his name was right in the mix with Anthony Davis’ and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s.

Rivers went to Duke to play college ball under Mike Krzyzewski. It was the right choice. There he would learn to defend better, become part of a team and learn to flop.

It was a tough season for Rivers at Duke though. The team was successful but still underachieved by the school’s standards. Rivers led the Blue Devils averaging 15.4 points per game, shot .433 from the field and .365 from three.

Rivers wasn’t playing with a real point guard. He was the only player on the team that could create his own shot and defenses defended Duke accordingly. Rivers looked frustrated all season.

In high school, everything ran through him all the time. That’s what made watching him in high school so special. He didn’t play for a prep school that had five or six Division-1 players on the roster. He was far and away the best player and his coach used him that way. He used him like an NBA coach would.

Rivers was always made for the NBA. College basketball was just something he was forced to do. He was born to play in the NBA and he’s been preparing for this opportunity his whole life.

But Rivers has become one of the most polarizing players in this year’s draft. Some people hate how he plays, mostly those that grade basketball players by: “Is he fun to play with?” Those are just outsiders that don’t understand what Rivers is about.

Those who have seen him up close and followed him for years know he wasn’t given this opportunity because his dad played in the league. It’s nothing but hard work for him. He has the best opportunities at his disposal and he has used them to the fullest.

That’s how you know that Rivers having the same alpha dog attitude Kobe Bryant has is a good thing. If he didn’t have the foundation around him and was a bad kid, it could backfire.

But it won’t and that’s why in a few years teams are going to regret passing on Rivers. You can’t kill them for it tonight and Rivers is probably going to go a little higher than most mocks are projecting him.

“He is an alpha dog. I think he will succeed in the NBA because of that,” Krzyzewski said. “He believes he’s going to be great. I’d rather have a guy like that than a guy who doesn’t believe in himself.”

As each player walks to the podium before him tonight, Rivers will be taking notes, writing down the names of those teams just like Kobe did.

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Tags: Anthony Davis Austin Rivers Bradley Beal Duke Harrison Barnes Michael Kidd-Gilchrist Mike Krzyzewski NBA Draft Thomas Robinson

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