Through-the-roof expectations and nerves make playing on national television a challenge for many high school basketball stars.
But Friday night at Florida Atlantic University in Miami, the top guards in the classes of 2010 and 2011 dazzled an ESPN2 audience by combining for 90 points as Florida 6A power Winter Park got past Class 3A Pine Crest of Fort Lauderdale, 87-76.
Pine Crest’s Brandon Knight, an uncommitted senior ranked No. 1 overall in the 2010 class by MaxPreps.com, won the scoring battle with 48 points, but star junior guard Austin Rivers and Winter Park walked away winners.
Rivers, ranked No. 3 overall in the 2011 class, countered with 42 points and teammate John David Swanson added 22.
"Brandon is a heck of a player,'' Rivers told the Miami Herald following the victory. "I wanted to go against him. It is awesome fun going against players like him. I am the best player on this team and he is the best player, so we had to go against each other. This is probably the best game I've had. This and the Findlay Prep game is the best games we played in all our life.''
Knight is still weighing his college options. Kentucky, Florida, Connecticut and Syracuse are in the mix.
Rivers committed to Florida as a sophomore but hasn’t completely ruled out looking at other schools. The son of Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers has made a habit of showing up big in big games, scoring 45 points in a victory over nationally-ranked St. Benedict's Prep (Newark, N.J.) at the City of Palms Classic in December. He scored 46 points in a game at the same event as a sophomore.
Both programs will be among the favorites to capture state titles in their respective classifications when Florida’s postseason begins next week. Pine Crest is the two-time defending Class 3A state champion, while Winter Park was knocked out in the state semifinals a year ago.