August 6-21, 2022
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by: Bernie Puchalski, BP Sports Niagara

Oliver Rioux: World’s tallest teen makes his Canada Games debut at Niagara 2022

Record-breaking performances are a distinct possibility during the Niagara 2022 Canada Summer Games.

But one mark that no one will come close to is the record held by 16-year-old Olivier Rioux. The 16-year-old basketball player from Terrebonne, Que., has been named by Guinness World Records as the tallest teenager in the world. A video of Rioux when he was 6-foot-10 and playing in under-12 tournament went viral and he now stands at 7-foot-6. His lengthy frame is supported by size 20 shoes.

An internet search of Rioux yields very little about his basketball playing prowess as most of the coverage focuses on how incredibly tall he has become. Rioux is OK with that.”

“I would say that it’s good, he said. “Since I was a kid, I wanted to do that. Basketball is just the add-on to me being tall.”

Quebec coach Dan Martin knows that Rioux’s size makes him a magnet for attention.

“I mean it comes and goes. He’s learned to live with who he is and he’s comfortable with who he is, but there are times people are inappropriate with him — when we sit down to eat — he draws a lot of attention but you have to understand too. It’s just like anything else.”

Martin sees a lot more than height when he looks at his post player.

“He’s a very intelligent player, really understands the game for a 16-year-old at a level that’s much better than most 16-year-olds,” he said. “Obviously he’s got a tremendous amount of height, but his understanding of the game is also at a very, very high level. He’s a very, very good teammate, looks out for the other guys, wants to get everyone else involved and he makes it about the team at all times.”

Rioux is a focus of attention for other teams whenever he is on the court.

“Underneath the rim, he’s very hard to guard. Basketball obviously is a team sport so there’s lots of different strategies that teams will employ to counteract his size and it’s up to us to adapt and figure out the best way to take advantage of his actions,” Martin said.

The game of basketball has evolved to the point where bigs have to do so much more than just rule the paint. Martin feels Rioux has the tools to succeed.

“He actually shoots the ball well, technically, again age is a big part to do with it. Bigs, even just regular-size bigs, they mature at 19, 20, 21,” he said. “He’s got five, six, maybe seven years of maturing to do before his body catches up with itself so to speak. He could absolutely be that kind of a player, because he’s really a pass-first player and pretty skilled.”

Height runs in Rioux’s family. His father, Jean-Francois, is 6-foot-8 and his mother, Anne Gariepy, is 6-foot-1.

Rioux trained with Real Madrid in Spain and College St-Jean-Vianney in Montreal before moving to the IMG Academy in Florida when he was 15. For some kids, living away from home at that age would have been tough but it wasn’t for Rioux.

“It was for the good of my game,” he said.

The experience has worked out exactly as he has hoped and IMG has proven to be the perfect place for him

“They are making me shoot my shots and they want me to be better.”

His routine at IMG is simple.

“I wake up in the morning, go to breakfast, have two hours of school and practice after that.”

Prior to the Canada Games, Rioux suited up for Canada at the under-17 World Cup in Spain where he averaged 2.7 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. At last year’s FIBA Americas under-16 tournament, he averaged 8.3 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.

Quebec opened play Monday at the Games with a 115-76 victory over Saskatchewan.

Rioux has one goal in mind for the Games.

“Winning,” he said.

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