If you’ve watched any of Las Vegas Summer League so far you’ve surely noticed Tacko Fall. The center out of UCF and playing for the Boston Celtics stands at a huge 7’7, and has become a sensation in Vegas, with fans marveling at his gigantic size as he towers over other big men.
Height is the first thing you notice about Fall, because even sharing the floor with some of the tallest people on earth, he makes them look minuscule by comparison. He can touch the rim without jumping and regularly throws down dunks where he would barely clear a phone book with his leap. Fall’s height is, undoubtedly, a major reason why he is an NBA prospect.
But height is only part of Fall’s story and appeal as a player. Throughout this entire process it’s been somewhat irritating to watch Fall become a sideshow, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that Fall is just turning into a mascot. Here’s a young player with legitimate NBA skills, but rather than much discussion about how he could fit in the NBA, he’s mostly become a social media meme. There’s no expectation for serious basketball analysis at summer league, but it would be nice to see Fall get acknowledged beyond his height.
His height is, ironically, the low-hanging fruit. It’s unfortunate that many can’t get past that, especially when you consider that Fall himself has an interesting backstory beyond just being an incredibly tall person that plays basketball.
Elhadji Tacko Sereigne Diop Fall, came to the United States at 16 years old after he was discovered at the International Sports Training Institute at Dakar. He originally wanted to play soccer, but Fall’s height and some special training with Hakeem Olajuwon pushed him towards basketball. That was the reason he came to the states. He hopped around multiple high schools, before finally managing to settle on Liberty Christian Prep in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately for Fall, the lack of stability in his life did not end there.
After accepting a scholarship to UCF, Fall was initially told by the NCAA he wasn’t eligible to play his first season at UCF, because they did not accept his high school courses as legitimate. This comes despite Fall having a 4.0 GPA in high school, scoring in the 95th percentile on the SAT.
“Right now, the NCAA seems to be hiding behind his high school, Liberty Christian, not being certified,” Wettstein told ESPN. “They aren’t accepting chemistry, calculus and other courses in which he excelled. This slaps in the face of what they say, that they look at each individual circumstance.
“(The NCAA is) punishing Tacko even though he’s done nothing wrong. … It’s like he’s guilty until proven innocent. He needs to be cleared. This is a young man who is a terrific student.”
Fall would eventually make it to UCF, where he graduated with a computer engineering degree with plans of being an engineer someday. His path to basketball was a winding one, and he had to make that journey while much of his immediate family stayed home in Senegal. His mom never got to see him play basketball until his senior night last year.