The pre-teen from Anjou, a borough in east Montreal, became an unsuspecting internet star over the weekend when a video of a game he'd played against fellow 12-year-olds in Spain went viral. Playing on eight-foot nets against players that looked like toddlers, by comparison, Rioux thoroughly dominated.
Rioux stood like a maypole in the center of the pre-game huddle, his teammates dancing around him. He swatted away shots with ease. He dunked without leaving his feet. He scored backward over his head.
Missing a jump shot from inside the three-point line? Doesn’t matter, just take two long strides towards the hoop, pick up the offensive rebound and slam home a dunk. Your teammate’s in possession but is too well guarded and can’t see an option with the shot clock running down? Never mind, just pass to the bloke whose armpits sit inches above everyone else’s head.
Just make sure the ball doesn’t hit the roof en route to Rioux’s outstretched hands.
In the last three years, he's helped propel the Chénier School basketball team to the top in terms of the number of medals won in competitions between elementary schools under the Pointe de l'île School Board.
Rioux, who's just two inches shy of the Toronto Raptors' tallest players — Jonas Valanciunas, Jakob Poeltl, and Lucas Nogueira are all seven feet — has been playing basketball since he was five his dad said. Jean-Francois, who was a volleyball player, knew even as a toddler that Olivier would be tall. He's grown at the rate of about 10 centimeters a year, and doctors have told the family he hasn't stopped.
Jean-Francois is 6-8, while Rioux's mom Anne Gariepy is 6-1. Rioux's older brother Emile, who is 15 and six foot nine, also plays basketball. "It's hard work ... all the time he puts into it," said the boy's father, Jean-François Rioux. "It's good for him — basketball helps him spend his energy."
Even competing against teams from different school boards, Chénier triumphs. The school, overwhelmed by the success, has stopped counting its awards.
Shaquille O'Neal, by comparison, was 5-10 at Rioux's age but would grow nearly a foot time he turned 16.
After leading Chenier elementary school to numerous titles, Rioux will attend Saint-Jean-Vianney high school, which his dad said has a strong basketball program, in the fall. Like many young athletes, the dream is to one day sign a lucrative contract with the NBA.