Canada's new basketball prodigy Olivier Rioux: 13 years old, 2.18m tall, shoe size 20 

A viral video sensation when he was 12, even Steph Curry and Joel Embiid know who Olivier Rioux is, now he plays at Real Madrid and the future looks bright.

By Ken Browne

Olivier Rioux is used to all the attention.

"So many questions", tweeted Steph Curry when he saw the viral video of the young Canadian basketball played in the summer of 2018.

The Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid saw the same video, and liked the boy giant's attitude, tweeting:

“He has the nerves, the audacity to talk (trash) too lmao”

NBA player Jamal Murray was stunned too when he saw him in the flesh at the Jr. NBA World Championships in Ontario in June 2018 - this 12-year-old kid was taller than him, way taller than him.

At 2.13m (6'10") at 12, the Canadian prodigy was a full 18cm (More than half a foot) taller than the Denver Nuggets' guard and Murray couldn't resist asking Rioux for a photo .

Now in May 2019, Rioux is even taller: 2.18m (7'2") and is already on a basketball career path having been invited to play a tournament for European giants Real Madrid in Spain.

Rioux was just 12 and towering over the other kids his age when Steph Curry and Joel Embiid saw him play.

He was dunking backwards, slapping shots away, winning rebounds, and slamming two handed dunks without even jumping.

Ok, he was playing on a lowered ring, but if this was a glimpse at the future, then it's big for the Montreal native.

That viral video was shot in La Roda, where Rioux played for the Frenchy Phenoms against Real Madrid, and the club scouts sat up.

With the kind of international recruitment that brought in the likes of 2018/19 NBA rookie of the year favourite Luka Doncic and is currently courting fellow 2.18m Philippine sensation Kai Sotto, Real Madrid decided to give Rioux a trial.

Rioux wore Real Madrid's all-white jersey in the Castelldefels Under-13 FIBA International Tournament in April 2019 and he didn't disappoint.

Scoring 20 points on his debut, Rioux helped his team ease past BBA Castelldefels by 121-49.

It was enough to spark speculation that he could sign a contract with the Spanish club.

Despite the obvious limits on his range of movement due to his size and age, Rioux showed good defensive timing, good IQ in possession - understanding when to release teammates or drive to the basket, solid shot percentages, and good anticipation around the ring on both offensive and defensive rebounds.

There's no doubt that the kid is one for the future.

How tall is Olivier Rioux?

At 13 years old Olivier Rioux is 2.18m tall (7'2"). At the same age Shaquille O'Neal was 180cm (5'10").

The tallest active player in the NBA is Latvian Kristaps Porzingis at 2.21 m (7' 3"), a height that Rioux is projected to outgrow.

His father Jean-Francois played volleyball and is 2.03m (6'8"), his mother Anne Gariepy is tall too, 185cm (6'1"), his brother Emile is 15, also plays basketball and measures in at 2.06m (6'9").

Doctors say Olivier's growth rate is 10cm per year and he hasn't stopped yet.

The tallest ever players in the NBA were Manute Bol and Ghoerghe Muresan at 2.32m (7'7").

At just 13, Rioux has time to outgrow them.

Feeding the giants

The question is, what do you feed a 13-year-old skyscraper?

His father laughed when Canadian outlet asked him, responding: “Normal breakfast would be two big cereal bowls, two toasts, yogurt, bananas.”

With the twin towers, Olivier and his brother Emile, together at the breakfast table, imagine the food bill.

Canadians in the NBA - is Rioux Canada's next great big hope?

In hockey-loving Canada, basketball comes second.

That despite Canadians claim the sport was invented by one of their own - James Naismith, in 1891.

Team Canada has won 9 men's Olympic hockey gold medals - more than any other country - and 26 IIHF World Championships.

Canada has never won gold in basketball.

The closest the men's basketball team has ever got to gold was when they took silver at Berlin 1936.

But things are improving.

From 1949 to 2011 only 19 Canadians had played in the NBA.

At the start of the 18/19 season 13 Canadians were on NBA rosters including some big names like Khem Birch (26), Chris Boucher (25), Dillon Brooks (22), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (20) and Jamal Murray.

The 2019 FIBA World Cup in China should give us a good idea if the Canadadians are even contenders for an Olympic medal at Tokyo 2020.

Could Canada stop the USA winning a rare three-peat?

They've been drawn in a group with Lithuania, Australia, and Senegal so with the right players in the right mindset Canada may cause an upset at another tournament that they've never won.

Looking to the next generation, Olivier Rioux could be the big, dominating NBA centre that Canada has never really had.

But for now the 13-year-old is focused on his development and his parents on helping him make the right decisions.

Why Real Madrid?

Why might Olivier Rioux and his parents decide on Spain and Real Madrid as a good place to nurture his precocious talent?

He is from Canada after all, home of NBA team Toronto Raptors, and just across the border from the USA's countless talent incubators.

When you look at Spain and Real Madrid's recent record, maybe it isn't such a surprise.

The 2017-18 EuroLeague champions have a proven track record of bringing players through their academy on the way to the NBA.

Could Rioux take the same route to the big time as Latvia's Kristaps Porzingis and Slovenia's Luka Doncic?

Both went to Spanish clubs as teenagers and then both joined the NBA as first round draft picks.

Doncic went to Real Madrid at 13, played in the senior team at 16 and was picked by the Dallas Mavericks at 19.

Porzingis arrived at Sevilla at 15, and was 20 when he became the New York Knicks’ first round pick and fourth overall in the 2015 draft.

Is Olivier Rioux next?

Watch this space.