Following a summer and fall season in which he broke out and showed off his versatility as a player, 6-foot-7 Worcester Academy senior forward Tom Rivard committed to James Madison on Sunday.
“They actually came in late September for an open gym to look at a teammate of mine, they asked Coach Sullivan about me during warmups," Rivard said. "And a few weeks later they offered."
Rivard -- a straight-A student who draws rave reviews about his leadership and character from his coaches and opposing coaches alike -- has been a student at Worcester academy since middle school. His head coach, Jamie Sullivan, has known him nearly the entirety of that stint.
“Playing four years of prep school ball at the highest level, we’ve always scheduled and played the best schedule around," Sullivan said. "Being able to play on varsity since a freshman and playing against seniors and postgrads every single day helped him so much."
Going into this year’s fall open gyms, a time of year where Division 1 coaches from around the nation flock to New England’s prep schools to watch players in a workout setting, Rivard had no Division 1 offers and very little interest from programs outside of the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).
Even Rivard admits he was a little bit taken aback when he heard about his first official offer, but says his preparation during the latter half of this summer was what fueled his play in the fall.
“I feel like the month of August I really made an effort to work with my trainer to build my strength and conditioning, and that really helped my game,” he said.
Following his offer, Rivard consulted high school teammate Rene Castro, the reigning Massachusetts Gatorade Player of the Year who recently committed to Butler. Sullivan says that Rivard and Castro have one of the closest friendships of anybody on the HIlltoppers’ squad.
“It’s funny, cause sometimes Tom and Rene are like a married couple, they’re always together and talking,” Sullivan said, “Rene really helped Tom with being more comfortable with the college decision making process…they helped each other really.”
Given his stellar academic record, Rivard had his pick of academic schools, especially programs in the NESCAC and a couple Ivy League schools. Sullivan’s forward fully embraced the opportunity to be recruited by college programs at all levels, but Rivard says he couldn’t turn down the many opportunities that would be of access to him at James Madison.
“Ultimately, the decision came down to a place where I could have the academic, athletic, and social opportunities that I wanted," Rivard said. "I felt like with all the great academic schools recruiting me that I really couldn’t make a wrong decision."
Starting next summer, Rivard will enroll in James Madison’s high honors program, giving him the chance to earn his degree at an accelerated rate while also using his great scoring and rebounding ability on the court to help the Dukes win ballgames. Given his experience with Rivard, Sullivan says that his senior has constantly exceeded the expectations of others, and will continue to do so in college.
“He could end up coming back here in four years with his master’s degree, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit," Sullivan said. "That’s just the kind of kid he is.”