Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Austin Rivers wins Wootten Award
By Paul Biancardi
Austin Rivers, the No. 1 overall player in the Class of 2011, received the Morgan Wootten Player of the Year award as a surprise guest looked on: his father, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Austin Rivers was given the award in front of a packed crowd at the Westin Hotel in Chicago on Tuesday.
"It is a proud moment for our family," Doc Rivers said. "Watching all the work he has done and to receive such a special award is a proud feeling as parents."
The Duke signee, who is closing in on 3,000 career points and recently led Winter Park High School to a second consecutive Florida Class 6A title, beat out two Kentucky signees, power forward Anthony Davis (Chicago, Ill./Perspectives Charter) and small forward Michael Gilchrist (Elizabeth, N.J./St. Patrick), and a North Carolina signee, power forward James McAdoo (Norfolk, Va./Norfolk Christian), for the award.
The Wootten award is named after the former DeMatha High School coaching legend and given to the McDonald's All-American who demonstrates outstanding character, exhibits leadership and exemplifies the values of being a student-athlete in the classroom and the community. McDonald's established the award in Wootten's name to pay tribute to his unprecedented achievements as a teacher and coach.
"Austin Rivers is the ideal person for this award. He combines everything we were looking for in a student-athlete," Wootten said. "He is an outstanding basketball player, one of the best in the nation, a young man who is an excellent student and gives back in his community."
The three-time, first-team all-state performer helped USA Basketball to a 5-0 record and a gold medal in the 2010 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in San Antonio, Texas, where he broke the USA U18 records for 3-point percentage (.600), points in a game (35) and 3-pointers made (9). Rivers also led his AAU team, Each 1 Teach 1, to a championship at the Super Showcase. However, he is much more than an offensive threat.
With his high school coach, David Bailey, leading the way, Rivers and his teammates found time to go out and give back.
"I went to help out at some local YMCA basketball camps and it was fun to work with little kids. They get so excited," Rivers said. He also spent the holidays with his Winter Park team helping families and people in need by distributing food at Thanksgiving and presents at Christmas.
"When you see the smile on their faces, it makes you feel good to help others," he said. "It really opened my eyes to how blessed I am and how hard it is for some people."
Rivers also is aware of the company he is in as a Wootten Award recipient. Previous winners include Harrison Barnes, Greg Oden, Kevin Love, LeBron James and Jay Williams.
"I would watch those great players growing up," said Rivers. "I am very blessed and grateful to win such a special award. When you win an award like this it reinforces what I am doing to this point, and I want to continue to work hard to reach my potential."
Rivers will be representing the West team in the McDonald's All-American Game on March 30 (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET).
Paul Biancardi, who has been a head coach and assistant on NCAA tournament teams, is the national director of basketball recruiting. He is also one the voters for the McDonald's All-American Game and Gatorade Player of the Year. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.