It’s easy to think that pure height is all it takes to succeed in the NBA. As countless big men who thrived in college can tell you, though, size isn’t everything. Boston Celtics center Tacko Fall is hoping that he doesn’t have to learn that lesson first hand.
The team has converted Fall’s contract into a two-way deal, meaning that he’ll be spending time in the NBA G-League. One Celtics legend provided some insight into what Fall needs to work on in order to make it back up to the big club.
Tacko Fall’s road to the NBA
Unlike most kids who grow up dreaming of being the next Michael Jordan, Fall started in much more humble circumstances. He was born and raised in Senegal, coming to America at age 16 with a single suitcase of clothes. He landed in Texas, where he briefly attended a sports academy and met Hakeem Olajuwon before enrolling at Liberty Christian Prep in Tavares, Florida.
Fall excelled in the classroom, devouring math and science lessons, but also developed on the basketball court. While he started slowly, his massive size soon allowed him to dominate high school opponents. College scouts began appearing at his game, and Fall chose to attend the University of Central Florida; he not only liked the school’s coaching staff but their engineering program.
While playing at the NCAA level was an adjustment, Fall’s meticulous work ethic and physical capabilities allowed him to succeed. By his senior year, he was averaging 11 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game; he helped UCF win their first NCAA Tournament game and nearly upset Duke in the second round.
Fall would go undrafted but signed a free agent deal with the Boston Celtics. His Exhibit 10 contract was later converted to a two-way contract, meaning that he’ll spend most of his time in the G-League, but can be called up for up to 45 days.
Cedric Maxwell’s advice
Cedric Maxwell played 11 NBA seasons as a forward, including eight with the Boston Celtics. He recently appeared on CBS Boston’s “Sports Final” and provided some insight into Tacko Fall’s skill set.
“I’ve never seen a 7-footer who wants to be a 7-footer,” Maxwell said. “Tacko is who he is. … He can play, but I think in the new NBA it’s dinosaur-like. … You have to guard multiple positions from the outside, you have to be able to shoot the three.” He highlighted the center’s footwork as a specific area for improvement; mobility will let him be more than a simple low post threat.
Maxwell also noted one thing working for Fall beyond his sheer size: a willingness to learn. “I think he’s smart, and if a guy’s smart, I think he has a chance,” the Celtics legend explained.
Can Tacko Fall make it in the NBA?
While getting bumped down to the G-League may seem like a demotion, it’s probably best for Fall right now. As Maxwell said, he’ll need some extra time to develop the finer points of his game; at the pro level, being a mountain of a man simply isn’t enough to succeed.
If Fall’s collegiate career is any indication, he’ll have no qualms about putting in the work and soaking up any coaching available. Even if he never turns into a stud, that should be good enough to make the second string of an NBA club. Being 7 feet, 5 inches tall doesn’t hurt either.