Paris Austin DOESN’T NEED A RANKING, True Point Guard Is A Killer! Official Ballislife Mixtape/Article
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IT’S NOT WHERE YOU START
Recent UC Berkeley signee Ivan Rabb has already become somewhat of a folk hero around his future campus. The greatest source of the Golden Bear-to-be’s legend is not his tantalizingly long 6’10 frame or his McDonalds All-American skillset, but rather an attribute much more associated with fortune 500 entrepreneurs than teenage hoop stars. The country’s top public institution now reveres the eighteen-year-old and his persuasion. Rabb tipped the scales for top Cal recruit Jaylen Brown and reportedly Caleb Swanigan is not far behind. While credit for the two top recruits’ interest has not officially been given to Rabb, around college basketball some are referring to him as the sport’s top recruiter. Cal’s newest power forward began developing this type of artistry years ago.
Paris Austin was just fourteen and headed to his local public high school in Oakland when his close friend Rabb suggested that Bishop O’Dowd, the nearby catholic school, would be a good place to spend his next couple of years. Before he could obtain a learner’s permit Rabb had an eye for transcendent talent.
In Austin, Rabb saw a kindred spirit. The two met in the 5th grade while playing for one of Oakland’s local AAU programs. Rabb was playing up with the program’s older team, yet the two bonded after discovering they shared a deep devotion to the game that simply wasn’t in the rest of their fellow ten year-old teammates. The bond and their commitment to the game deepened as they went on to share the floor on the local middle school
“I don’t know how many 5th or 6th graders take basketball that serious,” Austin wondered, “Ivan and I were always watching the game or playing it. He lives close by and we spent a lot of time together on those courts.” Paris explained in his bedroom of his parents house, while pointing out the window towards the Oakland blacktops a few streets over. By their 8th grade year they’d built chemistry, along with individual skillsets, and hit new heights as their Oakland Soldiers took the country by storm.
“That year is when things got really serious,” Paris explained, “we were playing for a really good team and spending a lot of time together on the road in hotels, just talking. We challenge each other a lot, he has no problem coming up to be and saying ‘P, what are you doing’ and I have no problem doing the same. If Ivan wasn’t one of the best players in the country I believe we would still be really good friends just based on his character. He’s family.”
Rabb’s premonition laid the groundwork for one of the greatest one-two punches in high school basketball this year. The East Oakland duo conjures memories of Chris Webber and Jason Williams. Rabb is as skilled of a big man as you’ll find at the prep level. He has range and touch from the outside, a great knack for finding the open man out of a double team, and an endless array of post moves to get him to the rim where he knows exactly how to finish. His childhood friend has every bit the flair White Chocolate had when he exploded on to the NBA scene. Spectators eject out of their seats into a standing ovation in reacting to Austin’s lighting quick crossovers and passes that bend the laws of geometry. A better comparison might be former NBA lottery pick and Coney Island standout Sebastian Telfair, in the way Austin makes it appear as if the court is covered in a thick layer of snow and he is the only wearing skis. However, unlike J-Will and Bassy Telfair before him, Boise State’s future floor general is rarely out of control. As quick as he can appear when blowing by helpless defenders, he can just as easily slow the game and dissect it frame by frame. Its a feel that cannot be taught and one that’s most associated with Chauncey Billups and Chris Paul.
Despite all the lines of comparison that can be drawn to great point guards before him, Paris Austin’s most defining characteristic is the one associated with his home’s soil. No word in the english language more aptly describes the city of Oakland, California better than toughness. It is a trait carried by all the great point guards to come out of Oakland. Brian Shaw and Gary Payton may have perfected it. Jason Kidd combined it with a savant understanding of the game and most recently the Trail Blazers’ Damian Lilliard has used it to drive him from obscurity to a certifiable star. Lilliard in particular is a fellow Oakland product who Austin studies meticulously, specifically his deadly stepback jumper which Austin has added in the last year. As an unheralded mid-major star who became a NBA lottery pick, there is no better blueprint for Austin to follow. Terry, Austin’s father, remembers early on when his son first showed flashes of that hometown unshakeable toughness and self-belief on the court.
“When he was a little guy I felt like P was right where he needed to be, but nothing really specially. Competitive but nowhere to the level he is now. Then there would be glimpses, like a step-back baby-step or pushing the ball.”
There was one definitive time when Terry Austin can remember realizing his son had something burning inside him. “I can remember taking him to these little tournaments around here and we went to one in Berkeley. It was Paris’s first time playing with this particular team and it was a tough game that came down to the last five seconds. The team swung the ball to him, he made a move and hit a shot to win the game. This coach went crazy and to this day keeps asking me to bring him back. The tenacity he played with and the confidence to take that kind of shot on a team of players he didn’t know…it was after that game when I said to myself ‘we might have something here.'”
Around that time a small buzz began to build around the fiery point guard from Oakland. Austin and Rabb’s former coach on one of their earlier AAU teams, Steve Arowsman, remembers the first time he saw Austin play was coaching against Austin. He had already heard about him from kids on his team and some of them thought they were better than Paris.
“I told them, ‘we’ll find out’ after the first half I remember thinking we need to get this guy on our team.”
Arowsman, who is known as “Rossi” by those close to him, got his way. Austin began playing for Rossi shortly after the lesson in humility he gave his future teammates and remains close with Rossi to this day. He often acts in a big brother role to put things in perspective for Paris. Along with his father Terry, they have had countless hours of conversations about focusing on the bigger picture, working hard and letting everything else take care of itself. It was during one of those long talks that Rossi told Paris while he was playing junior varsity as a freshman itching for a place on the varsity, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
Paris took the words to heart and it has become somewhat of a mantra to lean on when life isn’t going as smooth as his crossover. That mindset best explains Paris’s indifference to the various scouting services and websites that many of those who watched Paris throughout his career felt overlooked his rare skillset.
Through the first three years of his high school career Paris built a reputation as a quick, tough point guard. He played well on the AAU circuit in the summer and earned the starting point guard spot at O’Dowd by his sophomore year. Despite being overlooked by the various national scouting sites, interest in Paris began to build from a variety of mid-major programs. St. Mary’s and San Jose State each made a strong push to keep him close to home, while Montana pursued him in hopes of duplicating the success they experienced with another hard-nosed Oakland point guard named Will Cherry just a few years earlier. But no school contacted him sooner and more frequently than Boise State. The Broncos staff, specifically assistant John Rillie, were a constant in Paris’s life no matter how things were going on the court. When he was struggling with his shot Rillie kept calling him. When he was having a great summer with his AAU team Dream Vision following his junior year Rillie kept calling him.
When Paris began talking to bigger programs Rillie called. Even when he told Boise he wasn’t leaning towards going there Rillie called. When he really sat down and put things into perspective, as he so often did with Terry and Rossi, Paris decided he valued the loyalty Boise and Coach John(as he calls Rillie) had showed. He concluded Boise was the right fit and signed with them in November just weeks before the first game of his senior season. Despite not being the big time program he once dreamed of suiting up for he was unphased. He knew once he got to Boise it would be a clean slate. Where he stood in the class of 2015 player rankings would mean nothing. Rossi’s words rang truer than ever, “It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.”
Austin’s senior season at Bishop O’Dowd served as glaring proof that Rossi’s words he so often echoed were not simply lip service. From the beginning it was clear this would be a special season for Paris and the 2014-15 O’Dowd Dragons. In the season’s very first game he and Ivan put on an absolute show against one of the country’s top teams in Bishop Gorman. They took down the team stacked with multiple five star recruits in a convincing 63-55 victory. Ivan dominated the paint against the monstrous Gorman frontline that had an average height of 6’11. While Paris knocked down threes off the dribble, controlled the game and of course, kept the crowd on their feet with a spectacular passes.
Building on the Bishop Gorman win Paris and Ivan went on to lead the Dragons to a 27-4 season, which they would finish ranked 7th in the country according to USA Today. In the process Paris would put to bed a nagging question scouts had long posed regarding his jump shot. It was considered inconsistent and a glaring red flag, some thought it would greatly affect his ability to excel at the next level. All season long Paris went about definitively answering that question. Knocking down big threes in big moments as he had in the Bishop Gorman game throughout the season. The issue was officially buried for dead in January when Paris knocked down a school record 12 threes on his way to finishing with another school record of 43 points. Paris and his buddy from down the block had made Bishop O’Dowd a show no one wanted to miss.
While quieting the critics on his jump shot was satisfying, Paris, Ivan and the rest of this years O’Dowd team set out for this season with one goal in mind, take home a state title. They had fallen to Mater Dei the year before and were out for revenge. O’Dowd marched through NorCal on their way to the state title game with Paris playing his best basketball of the year.
Finally they got their wish, in late March they met Mater Dei once again, this time at Cal’s Haas Pavilion for a shot at what they had been working towards from day one.
The first half did not go according to plan. Mater Dei was on fire from the outside, while O’Dowd was noticeably out of sync. Paris went into the locker room at halftime with just one point to his name. Throughout the crowd largely made up of O’Dowd fans there was an unmistakeable sense of desperation. What happened next is where they get ideas for Disney movies and one of the most impressive second half performances in the history of the California state championship games.
With he and Rossi’s mantra etched in his brain, Paris shook off the first half and focused on what mattered, how you finish. He proceeded to rack up 20 points in the half and lead O’Dowd back from behind to send the game to overtime. With only seconds to go the ball was swung to Paris just as it had so many years ago when his dad had noticed something special in him. He blew by his defender down the baseline. He had an opening for a floater, but when Mater Dei’s star center MJ Cage slid over his instincts as a pure point guard took over and he found Ivan for an open six footer in the lane. Ivan was fouled with fractions of a second left on the clock. Before Ivan stepped to the line with a state championship on the line two old friends embraced near the top of the key. Paris can’t remember exactly what he said, but he remembers mentioning this was what they had talked about when they first got to high school and he needed Ivan to take them home. Only one sentence that he uttered sticks out vividly enough for him to recall and he asked that you excuse his language. “Get this shit done.” Ivan did just that, knocking down the second free throw to put O’Dowd up one.
When Mater Dei’s full-court heave fell short, the two embraced once again as half Oakland poured onto the Haas Pavilion floor. In the final game of their high school careers they had finished the job they talked about years ago in the back of their parents car, in hotel rooms during AAU tournaments and on the blacktops of East Oakland. A story book ending to Paris Austin’s high school career, it could not have ended any better. Scout.com recently bumped him into the class of 2015 top 100 rankings that had alluded him for the last four years. Life is good for Oakland’s most recent point guard prodigy. In a few short weeks he’ll walk the stage at Bishop O’Dowd’s graduation. The very next day he’ll take off for Boise to start his college career. But he’ll be the first to tell you, that part doesn’t doesn’t matter.
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Below is an exclusive GetSportsFocus Interview with Paris after state