Olivier Rioux (left), who will join the UF basketball team as a preferred walk-on in the fall, is currently 7-foot-7.
Olivier Rioux (left), who will join the UF basketball team as a preferred walk-on in the fall, is currently 7-foot-7. Photo: Lauren Roberts/Salisbury Daily Times/USA TODAY NETWORK

‘The World’s Tallest Teenager’: 7-foot-7 Rioux Ready to Head to UF

BRADENTON — The IMG Academy national men’s basketball team is running three-on-three drills with a skyscraper. It’s a standard afternoon practice in February, and the squad is playing in its 115,000-square-foot basketball complex. The royal blue, five-pointed logo of the “Ascenders” is illuminated by the overhead lighting that spans four basketball courts. The team has a tournament the next weekend, so the players aren’t going at 100%. Still, with elite talent all over the court, there is consistently a high level of competition.

A shot goes up, and 2025 prospect Kareem Stagg skies for the rebound. But even at 6-foot-8, Stagg is dwarfed by the skyscraper. The skyscraper snatches the ball, barely leaving the ground, and makes a quick pass to ignite the transition. Once back on offense, the skyscraper receives a pass and immediately drives to the rim for a dunk. His shoes barely leave the ground, his 93-inch wingspan more than enough to reach the net on its own.

That skyscraper is 18-year-old Olivier Rioux, or, to those who know him, “Oli.” Listed at 7-6 – though he says he has grown an inch and is now 7-7 – and 300 pounds by recruiting outlets, Rioux is so tall that his hair nearly grazes the net as he walks under it. His dribble height reaches his teammates’ shoulders. He holds a Guinness World Record as the world’s tallest living teenager. He’s committed to the University of Florida and will soon head to Gainesville to join coach Todd Golden’s roster as a preferred walk-on as the program continues its rebuild.

Olivier Rioux of IMG Academy looks for an open teammate in their game against Richmond Heights in the City of Palms Classic on Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2023, at Suncoast Credit Union Arena in Fort Myers.
When he suits up with the Gators, Olivier Rioux will become the tallest player in UF basketball history. Photo: Amanda Inscore/The News-Press/USA TODAY NETWORK

At his height, Rioux encounters the obstacles one would expect from someone of his stature: looks from strangers, ducking under doorways and fitting into places are all daily tasks. Sitting in cars, though, is less of an obstacle for him than one might expect.

“It depends on which one — not a mini, obviously,” Rioux joked.  “As a family, we have a [Toyota] Sienna [minivan] and it’s pretty easy to move [the seats] back.”

Striving to fit in, however,  is something Rioux has battled since an early age.

Rioux spent his childhood in the quiet suburbs of Montreal, Canada. His family background helps explain his stature; his mother stands at 6-2 and his father is 6-8, while his brother, Emile, is a mere 6-9. His father, Jean-Francois, said Oli grew at a normal rate in before a rapid rise.

“From birth, he was like a regular child,” Jean-Francois said. “After that, it was just exponential. Olivier didn’t have a growth spurt, he had a growth. Exponential, all of the time.”

Despite Oli’s abnormal height, Jean-Francois believes the constant state of growth helped the young boy avoid health complications. As he grew up, Rioux was tasked with dealing with being different from his classmates at a young age. While the circumstance lent itself to humorous situations, such as Rioux standing at eye level with his teacher in kindergarten for a student-teacher dance, something he described as, “Really weird,” he also encountered classmates picking on him.

Olivier Rioux (right) comes from a tall family. His brother (from) left is 6-foot-9, while his father is 6-8 and his mother is 6-2.
Olivier Rioux (right) comes from a tall family. His brother (from left) is 6-foot-9, while his father is 6-8 and his mother is 6-2. Photo Courtesy of Jean-Francois Rioux.

A family which matched his height helped Rioux maintain confidence and sense of self.

“I have been taught all my life to just support [my size],” Rioux said. “It’s nature, and you can’t control anything.”

Rioux began playing organized basketball around 8 years old, but his persona began to take off around the age of 12. A video of him dunking (Rioux admits that it was on an 8-foot rim) went viral online, kickstarting his social media presence that’s since resulted in more than 90,000 followers on Instagram. He also played for the Canadian national youth team and, at 12, for Real Madrid, a basketball club in Spain that once employed NBA All-Star Luka Doncic at a young age.

When he was 16, he was bestowed as the world’s tallest teenager by the Guinness Book of World Records. Rioux said he initially reached out to Guinness and never heard back, but once his mother reached out the distinction gained traction. The record for the tallest teenager still belongs to Robert Wadlow, who was measured at just over 8 feet as a 17-year-old in 1935. The record for living teenagers, though, belongs to Rioux.

The world distinction, as well as his development on the court, began to build Rioux’s stature on the national scene.

As he decided where he would play basketball for the next stage of his development before college, the choices came down to returning to play for Real Madrid and IMG Academy. The academy, based in Bradenton, Florida, learned about him from connections in Canada Basketball. After a visit to IMG to see its new basketball facilities, Rioux’s choice was clear.

Olivier Rioux, shown here at age 12, played basketball in Spain in the Real Madrid program as younger child. Photo courtesy of Jean-Francois Rioux.
Olivier Rioux, shown here at age 12, played basketball in Spain in the Real Madrid program as younger child. Photo courtesy of Jean-Francois Rioux.

The walls of the facility feature big, bright photos of the players from IMG who have reached the NBA: Utah’s Keyonte George, Orlando’s Jett Howard, Portland’s Anfernee Simons, to name a few. Aside from the facilities, the emphasis on education at IMG played a role, too.

“When you go play for one of those clubs [Real Madrid], you tend to lose your childhood so to speak,” IMG president of basketball Brian Nash said. “You get thrown into a pro environment, and I don’t think his family necessarily thought he was ready for that.”

Nash, a former college coach who spent time as an assistant at Seton Hall, St. Bonaventure and Duquesne, was the primary contact for IMG through Rioux’s recruitment. He also fielded concerns from Rioux’s mother about the potential of the Canadian suffering bullying at IMG, something he had encountered earlier in life.

“He came here, and he’s a rock star here because he’s amongst his peers who are all athletes,” Nash said. “I think that was one of the best things with him hitting the ground running and his confidence.”

Upon arrival at the academy, the primary obstacle Rioux faced early on was a language barrier— French was his first language. He was taught English in school growing up, but Rioux was still given a private tutor to help him in classes and understand commands on the basketball court.

Olivier Rioux of IMG Academy tries to block a shot by Richmond Heights forward TJ Crumble on Dec. 20, 2023.
Olivier Rioux of IMG Academy tries to block a shot by Richmond Heights forward TJ Crumble on Dec. 20, 2023. Photo: Amanda Inscore/The News-Press/USA TODAY NETWORK

Through his time at IMG, Rioux has improved on the offensive side of the ball, according to coaches and teammates. He’s been praised for his touch with the ball, both as a passer and with his mid-range shot. With his size, the pick and roll has become a strength, too.

“You get stuck, and you can just throw it up to him and he’s there,” senior guard Gerard O’Keefe said. “A lot of big guys like that, they move real slow, struggle up and down the court, but that’s [his mobility] actually one of his strengths.”

On defense, though, national team head coach Sean McAloon said Rioux is still working to develop. After competing on lower-level teams in years prior, Rioux cracked the national team – the highest level squad at the academy – his final year.

“The defensive side is where he struggles a little bit more, and I think it’s because most people have always told him to stand under the basket,” McAloon said. “‘If you stand under the basket it’ll be tough for them to finish,’ which makes sense … until you get to our level, where you’ve got guys who can put it on your face.”

The roster Rioux now plays on is littered with Division I prospects. Players on his team are committed to schools such as Syracuse, Michigan, Houston and Notre Dame; many juniors on the team have yet to decide on which D-I school they will attend. The level of elite talent Rioux plays with, combined with his developmental process, has meant he doesn’t rack up minutes in every game. Still, McAloon says Rioux has had a positive attitude throughout the experience and has been a team player.

Despite not always dominating the box scores at IMG, the teenager is still recognized for his height and is often surrounded with fans asking for photos. It’s nothing new for Rioux — he’s dealt with this most of his life — but it can be a shock for his teammates.

O’Keefe, who is committed to Columbia, has played on the same team as Rioux for the past three years, the only teammate to hold that designation. He recalls Rioux’s first year on campus when there were news outlets, bringing cameras to snap photos of the newcomer nearly every week of the year. O’Keefe said it was addressed as a team the first time it happened and was never a distraction after that.

“When we’re in really public places– the airport is probably the best example– there are dozens of people asking for pictures,” O’Keefe said. “It can get to the point of almost harassment. He handles it so well and he takes pictures with every person that asks, which is really impressive.”

Rioux has grown a few more inches during his time at IMG. One of the biggest parts of his development was learning to move in his own body. That included things as rudimentary as running at top speed. It’s one of the things Rioux is excited to improve on in Gainesville, calling his running a “work in progress.”

“[Florida has] significantly more stuff, in terms of the scientific nature of how to go about it,” McAloon said. “[The ability to] photograph his way of running, we can’t do that here. We’re great with nutrition, lifting. We can do certain things, but their science center is gonna be great for him.”

Olivier Rioux earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘World’s Tallest Teenager’ at age 16.
Olivier Rioux earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as the ‘World’s Tallest Teenager’ at age 16. Photo courtesy of Jean-Francois Rioux.

Rioux will enter the college basketball world at a time when 7-footers have dominated the headlines. The transfer of 7-2 center Hunter Dickinson from Michigan to Kansas was one of the biggest moves of last offseason. Twelve 7-footers competed in the SEC in 2023-24, with half of the teams in the league rostering at least one. At Florida, 7-1 sophomore center Micah Handlogten was one of the key starters for the Gators in the programs’ turnaround in 2024.

The 7-footer in college hoops whom Rioux has heard about the most, though, is Purdue’s Zach Edey.

The 7-4 2023 Wooden Award winner led the Boilermakers on another elite campaign in 2024, capped with a Final Four appearance before falling to Connecticut in the national championship. Edey is from Toronto, a five-hour drive from Montreal, yet to many Americans, Edey and Rioux are both giants and Canadians. That’s enough to draw comparisons, and enough to set expectations.

“I thought that was unfortunate for Oli,” McAloon said of the comparisons. “Especially because everybody was like, ‘He’s like Zach Edey, he’ll go on and be this.’ They’re two different people and two different physical specimens all together.”

Edey also went to IMG and played under McAloon, so Rioux spoke to Edey before deciding to play basketball at IMG. That’s the extent of their relationship, though, as Rioux was too young to play on the Canadian team with Edey. He does still see the All-American’s development as a potential blueprint.

“It made me see what I could be,” Rioux said of Edey. “Not like him, but the development he had and what he has become at Purdue. I’ve seen him improve all the way.”

When Rioux heads to Gainesville and suits up in the orange and blue, he will immediately become the tallest player in team history, eclipsing 7-foot-2 Dwayne Schintzius, who played for Florida from 1986-90. He’ll make D-I history, too. Only one other D-I basketball player has been listed at 7-7: Kenny George, who played for UNC Asheville in the mid 2000s. Even the tallest players in NBA history are listed at 7-7, Manute Bol and Gheorghe Mureșan, so it’s little surprise Rioux’s size will be unprecedented in the Southeastern Conference. There were only two active players above 7-2 this season: Missouri’s Connor Vanover and Ole Miss’ Jamarion Sharp. Both stand at 7-5, still looking up to the future Gator. Both players exhausted their college eligibility in the 2023-24 season.

Due to NCAA regulations, Florida is unable to comment on Rioux until he gets to campus because he will be a walk-on. But when he gets to Gainesville, Rioux will look to learn from Handlogten, who is recovering from a broken leg suffered in the SEC tournament final, sophomore Alex Condon and 6-11 center Rueben Chinyelu, who transferred to Florida last week after spending his freshman season at Washington State.

Rioux nor McAloon have any preconceived expectations entering the center’s time at UF. Rioux is just excited to continue his developmental journey.

 

Olivier Rioux has always been the center of attention, but he’d like to be known for more than just his height. Photo courtesy of Jean-Francois Rioux.

“I think part of the reason they [UF] took him is because it was one of those things where, ‘Well, we recognize it’s not gonna happen right away, but if he continues to improve at the scale he improves,” McAloon said. “He’s 7-7 and you can’t deny that.”

The move to Gainesville will bring him to the highest level of college basketball. Once there, he will have a fresh batch of people who have never encountered a 7-foot-7 person before. Rioux, always gracious with fans, says he’s mastered the art of dealing with them over the years. The key? Take pictures, but don’t linger.

“At a certain point, it’s not because you’re Olivier Rioux,” he said. “It’s because you’re tall, and that’s not what I want.”

About Carson Cashion

Carson Cashion is a second-year student at the University of Florida, and has a major in journalism with a specialization in sports and media. Originally from the Orlando area, Cashion has covered the UF Gymnastics team as well as Oak Hall athletics for ESPN Gainesville.

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