Column: Rivers filled a needed role for IU
By Nathan Hart
Yes, some good, some very good and some that didn’t quite reach expectations.
But Thursday night was Rivers’ Senior Night, and as the team’s only true senior, it was (more or less) his alone.
And in the spirit of the “Jeremiah” chants from the student section during warmups and the congratulations he received after the game, let’s remember that Rivers played a valuable role the past two seasons for IU.
In fact, he filled a role this team will need to replace, even as it brings in four- and five-star recruits the next few years.
Rivers, who first transferred from Georgetown, redshirted during IU coach Tom Crean’s first season, played the past two years and served as the team’s best defensive specialist.
And when he did that well, IU had success. Consider this season.
In a win against Illinois, Rivers shut down Illini senior guard Demetri McCamey, who shot 2-for-11 and finished with six points.
Against Minnesota, it was locking down sharpshooter Blake Hoffarber. He finished 4-for-12 on the night. IU won again.
Of course, the wins are few and far between these seasons. Rivers had his own funks and struggles, and he would readily admit to those.
Offensively, Rivers’ stat line — 3.6 points, 3 rebounds and 1.8 assists — never filled the box score.
But he wasn’t in the game to fill the box score, and this season he didn’t want to. Much has been said about some summer conversations he had with Crean that changed his role from an offensive-focused point guard to a defensive-minded off guard.
His defense determined his minutes on the court. If he played well, he played. If not, others replaced him.
To some extent, the senior night game exemplified Rivers’ impact — or the fact that when he had an off game, the opponent took advantage.
Rivers committed two fouls in the first four and a half minutes of the game. Part of his defensive assignment, Wisconsin guard Jordan Taylor, proceeded to score 17 first-half points and finished the game one point shy of an Assembly Hall record of 40 points.
That’s the way IU’s season has gone, and that’s the way the two years with Rivers will probably be remembered.
It’ll be a two-year span that is highlighted by less than 25 total wins, no postseason tournaments, agonizing loss after agonizing loss.
But before IU fans put those years behind them and look to a promising future, they should remember Rivers’ role.
IU will need a defensive specialist, and that means someone on the current roster will need to learn from what Rivers was many times able to do.