NBA

Tacko Fall Has Been Turning Heads at the 2019 NBA Summer League

Tacko Fall grabs a rebound over the Cleveland Cavaliers

Tacko Fall is accustomed to turning heads everywhere he goes. At 7 feet, 7 inches in height, Fall is one of the tallest men on earth. He has a wingspan of 8 feet and wears a 22 shoe size. But despite his massive height, the 23-year-old Senegal native was not drafted this year in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Fall’s thin frame and lack of a scoring game outside of the paint make him a limited option at the NBA level. But through his first three games of the NBA Summer League, Tacko Fall is making a strong case that he may be worth a flier based on his potential alone.

Fall’s Career at the University of Central Florida

When Tacko Fall moved to the United States from Dakar, Senegal, at the age of 16 years old. Fall was more interested in soccer than in basketball, but his height and athleticism caught the attention of Ibrahim N’Diaye, who offered Fall a spot in his Senegalese basketball academy. Despite having had no experience playing basketball at an organized level before this program, Fall’s height and potential landed him a spot in a high school in Texas.

After leading his first high school team in Houston to a state championship, the enormous teenager played his senior year at the Liberty Christian Preparatory School in Florida. He eventually committed to play basketball at the University of Central Florida.

Fall averaged 7.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in his freshman year at UCF. Over the next three seasons, including an injury-shortened campaign in his junior year, Fall averaged 11 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game.

By the end of his career at UCF, Tacko Fall was the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots with 280. With a 13-point, 18-rebound and 5-block performance in the first round against VCU last season, the senior center led the Knights to their first NCAA Tournament win in school history. Fall also gave the Duke Blue Devils a scare in the second round with 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks in UCF’s narrow 77-76 defeat.

Making a splash in the NBA Summer League

A couple of decades ago, a beast in the paint and a rim protector like Tacko Fall might have been a lottery pick in the NBA Draft. But in today’s game that relies so heavily on fast breaks and perimeter shooting, a big lumbering center like Fall could be seen as a liability that might get left in the dust.

That was the narrative on Fall when he went undrafted at this year’s NBA Draft. In just three Summer League games with the Boston Celtics, the 23-year-old is making a case that he may belong in the NBA in some capacity after all. Fall was signed by the Celtics to an Exhibit 10 contract, a non-guaranteed deal that will allow Boston to send the big man down to their G-League affiliate if he does not make the team’s roster.

Boston is off to a 3-0 start to the NBA Summer League. Tacko Fall scored six points and had four rebounds and a block in his first game of the summer as Boston defeated the Philadelphia 76ers.

It was in his second game of the summer that Fall really won over the crowd, going 5-for-5 with two dunks from the floor and 2-for-2 from the free throw line to rack up 12 points in just 11 minutes played. The crowd was chanting for him throughout the game when he was on the bench and going wild when he was on the floor.

Celtics’ coach Brad Stevens is impressed. “He has the whole place buzzing and it doesn’t affect who he is,” Stevens told the Boston Sports Journal’s Brian Robb. “I admire him.”

In Tuesday’s 95-82 Boston win over Denver, Fall recorded four points, four rebounds, and a block.

Will Tacko Fall make the team?

It’s still too early to say. He was a long shot coming into the summer, and the player he has the best chance of earning a roster spot over in Guerschon Yabusele has a fully guaranteed contract for $3.1 million this upcoming season.

Even if he doesn’t make the Boston Celtics roster this year, it feels like he’ll get a shot in the NBA sooner rather than later. Even with the speed and evolution of the game turning away from post-game specialists, it’s hard to believe that there won’t be a team or two out there willing to take a shot on Fall with his combination of height, potential, star power, and character. Let’s also not forget that he’s still very early into his career as a basketball player and could still develop a better jump shot in the coming years.

And if basketball doesn’t work out, Fall will be just fine. After carrying a 4.0 GPA in high school, Tacko Fall went on to study computer science at UCF. “If I could be LeBron James or Steve Jobs, I would be Steve Jobs.” Fall stated in a Bleacher Report documentary, “Your athleticism will fail one day, but your knowledge will last forever.”

I wouldn’t bet against this kid on or off the court.