By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Jeremiah Rivers's performance at Duke in early December -- six points and just one turnover inside a frenzied Cameron Indoor Stadium -- should rank as one of the highlights of the season thus far for the Georgetown freshman guard.
But that game also is a reminder of the difficulties he has faced this season; just when it seems he is settling in, he gets hurt. In the final three minutes, Rivers landed awkwardly on teammate Jonathan Wallace's foot and sprained his right ankle; he had to be helped off the floor. After weathering injuries and illness throughout the preseason, Rivers was frustrated by another setback.
"It was kind of like start-stop, start-stop," said Rivers, who missed a week-and-a-half of practice in October because of an injured foot and also dealt with low blood sugar and dehydration in early November. "I was like, 'Oh my gosh, when is this going to stop?' I feel like now, hopefully."
Rivers, the son of Boston Celtics Coach Doc Rivers, now says that he finally is 100 percent healthy and that he's comfortable with his role as the only backup guard behind starters Wallace and sophomore Jessie Sapp. In the Hoyas' 66-52 win over DePaul on Wednesday, Rivers was on the court for key stretches because Wallace and Sapp were in foul trouble; Rivers remained steady (one turnover) against the Blue Demons' pressure.
"He's getting there. . . . It's a process. It'll take time," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson III, whose team hosts Cincinnati today at Verizon Center. "The fact that we are thin [at guard], his growth and development is essential."
The 6-foot-4 Rivers was averaging 14 minutes off the bench in his first six games of the season, and he was starting to settle into his role when the Hoyas traveled to Duke on Dec. 2. In the 61-52 loss to the then-No. 11 Blue Devils, he played a career-high 21 minutes and made all three shots he took in the first half, including a pull-up jumper with 16 seconds remaining that gave the Hoyas a 34-27 halftime lead.
But after spraining his ankle, he missed the next three games. Rivers returned to the court against Towson on Dec. 20, but over the next three games he played a total of 11 minutes. It was hard for him to get into any sort of rhythm in those brief stints, and his play reflected that. He tried to use his time on the bench to learn.
"Watching does help, I'm not going to lie, and I've watched a lot of tape with the coaches," Rivers said. "But being out there, just the preciseness of the cutting and the passing, that's huge. So you need to be out there more than anything."
As a senior at Winter Park (Fla.) High, Rivers played point guard for a team that advanced to the 6A state final. He often had the ball in his hands, and he controlled the game both with his scoring and his distributing.
But the Hoyas' offense doesn't have one dominant ballhandler; instead, they rely on passing and spacing and moving without the ball to create open shots. Rivers said when he first got to Georgetown, he didn't know how to cut.
"A lot of basketball is playing without the ball, and that's the biggest adjustment for me," Rivers said. "I'm so used to playing with the ball in my hands. That's why I was struggling, because I was fighting it at first."
Rivers scored six points at Rutgers on Jan. 17 -- his first points since the Duke game -- and had four against DePaul. He chose his spots to drive to the basket against the Blue Demons, and also looked to kick out the ball to shooters.
"With him getting more time and being put in different situations, he's becoming more comfortable," Wallace said. "He's handling the ball well and getting a grasp of the offense. . . . Jeremiah doing what he's doing opens up a lot of avenues for me and Jessie, as well as the other guys on the team."