Stroke of Genius

Despite growing up in hockey’s heartland, sophomore Laurent Rivard developed a deadly shooting touch and became a top Ivy deep threat from his first day on campus

FORCE FROM THE NORTH
Robert L. Ruffins

Sophomore Laurent Rivard led the Crimson in three-point shooting last year.

Yes, he is from Canada, but no, sophomore Laurent Rivard is not a hockey player.

“People ask me that all the time,” Rivard says. “I used to play [hockey] in the park and with my dad, and the game is fun, but ... I’m all about basketball.”

Ever since he put up 12 points against Mercer in his Harvard debut last season, the 6’5 Quebec native has kept Harvard fans captivated with the sight of a Canadian dominating on the court—and not the ice.

Last season, Rivard averaged 11 points per game and led the Crimson in three-pointers with 61, third best in the Ivy League. With his long shooting range, Rivard is again poised to be a major offensive threat for Harvard this year.

“He’s a terrific long-distance shooter, and I told him there’s probably only one better shooter in this town—and that’s Ray Allen,” Crimson coach Tommy Amaker says.

Growing up in Saint-Bruno, Quebec, Rivard was likely expected to take up hockey. But with a former basketball player for a father and a mother with significant connections to Canada’s national basketball league, Rivard broke the norm.

At the age of seven, Rivard picked up an early passion for both basketball and mountain biking. Growing up, he spent nearly every Saturday dividing his time between the court and the race track.

As he grew older, Rivard, a natural athlete, excelled in both sports. After winning the Canadian national championship for mountain biking, Rivard was invited to suit up for the U-17 Canadian National Team.

At that young age of 15, Rivard had to make a difficult decision between his two passions: mountain biking and basketball. While his decision is now clear, it was a pivotal one.

“I really miss [biking],” Rivard says. “When I go home, I still train on my road bike for stamina. But it’s always something I can go back to again, even after basketball. My dad still does it, and he loves it.”

A major factor in Rivard’s decision to stick with hoops was the greater opportunities available to young athletes in the sport. And shortly after he made the full-time commitment to basketball, those chances quickly presented themselves.

In his junior year of high school, after being spotted at an American basketball tournament, Rivard was asked to play for Massachusetts’s Northfield Mount Hermon Preparatory School, where he would eventually be heavily recruited by Harvard and other American universities.

But the transition to the United States, at least at first, was less than seamless. A native French speaker, Rivard struggled with his sudden immersion into an entirely English-speaking environment.

“My junior year of prep school, it was pretty tough,” Rivard says. “[On my first day], my first class was a U.S. History class, and we had to read George Washington’s Farewell Address. I called home, and I was like ‘Ma, I’m not going to be able to do it.’ But I eventually eased into it and people helped me a lot.”

Although the language barrier proved to be an unavoidable obstacle in Rivard’s academics, it was an even bigger challenge throughout the recruiting process.

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