Homegrown UCF Knights center Tacko Fall learning new way to stand out

Nov 28, 2015; Miami, OH, USA; Miami (Oh) Redhawks guard Geovonie McKnight (0) has his shot blocked by UCF Knights center Tacko Fall (24) in the first half at John D. Millett Hall. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2015; Miami, OH, USA; Miami (Oh) Redhawks guard Geovonie McKnight (0) has his shot blocked by UCF Knights center Tacko Fall (24) in the first half at John D. Millett Hall. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports /

UCF Knights center Tacko Fall is a hard man to miss. The 7-foot-6 center will get a look because of his size. In front of the NBA, he must find a way to stand out.

It is hard to miss Tacko Fall when he enters a room, let alone steps onto the court. The 7-foot-6 center demands your attention. His height alone will get him meetings with NBA teams. Even in a smaller NBA, no one can teach height.

That is something the UCF Knights certainly believed when they recruited him. The Knights began morphing their team around the sophomore center this year, carrying it all the way to the NIT semifinals.

Fall had a large hand in that. He averaged 10.9 points per game and 9.5 rebounds per game, adding 2.6 blocks per game. Fall’s mere presence would, of course, lead to blocks and keep players away from the paint. His presence is meaningful for sure and helped UCF put together one of the best statistical defenses in the nation.

The Knights, with new coach Johnny Dawkins manning the sidelines, seemed to unleash a new and improved Fall onto the nation.

It has led Fall to make the obvious and wise decision to test the waters of the NBA. He entered his name into the NBA Draft, but he has not hired an agent. He will have the option of returning to school by withdrawing his name before the May 24 NCAA deadline.

Before then, Fall is taking workouts having worked out for the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics before heading to work out for the Utah Jazz and, possibly, the Houston Rockets, he said. Thursday, Fall took part in a group workout with the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center — a workout that also featured Kansas Jayhawks point guard Frank Mason and Iowa Hawkeyes forward Peter Jok.

Here Fall still stands out physically on the court. A 7-foot-6 center never hides. But in these workouts, Fall is learning what he needs to do to stand out to NBA executives who could determine his basketball future.

"“It’s been great,” Fall told Orlando Magic Daily of his workout experience. “I’ve been through a couple workouts. It has been a great experience. I have learned a lot the last couple of days. A lot of those guys are older than me. Going up against them and seeing where I am. Those kinds of things.”"

Orlando Magic
Orlando Magic /

Orlando Magic

Like NBA teams, Fall right now is trying to gain as much information as he can, taking advantage of the early entry process to get feedback directly from NBA teams. Because Fall is a late round pick, he is often involved in group workouts, going up against similar players by position in 3-on-3 drills and in individual drills.

The Magic hosted six players including three bigs in Thursday’s workout. Of course, no one quite measures up to Fall physically. That is his big advantage and one way he stands out. But that alone is not enough to get him into the NBA.

The decision for Fall will come down to whether he believes he is ready to make it at the next level. He said he is still going through the workouts and will rely on the advice of family, friends and coaches before making a final decision.

DraftExpress currently projects Fall to land at the 50th pick in the 2018 Draft. It is widely expected Fall will return to UCF for his junior season.

With a player of his size, the NBA will eventually call. Some team will give him a shot. It is making the most of that shot that Fall will have to accomplish. And that part will not be easy. His size is a gift and a curse.

Even in a changed league that has seemingly gotten smaller and smaller, size has its value. And still, in the right situation, a player like Fall can be a big deterrent at the rim.

"“There are situations where he could be [a NBA-caliber player],” Magic interim general manager Matt Lloyd told Orlando Magic Daily. “The league is geared toward speed and recovery. But basket protection is one thing he can do. He can stand in front of the basket and be a deterrent. Any of the players that we brought in have a situation where they can thrive in. Tacko absolutely falls into that category.”"

Finding that perfect situation is the risk Fall is making entering the NBA Draft now. He will have to analyze the opportunities and the feedback he has received in the last few weeks since he started going through workouts and make his own decision.

The Magic certainly should be more familiar with Fall and what he can do just based on proximity. Lloyd praised Fall for the improvements he has made, crediting Fall along with UCF’s coaching staff for continuing to coach the young player up.

Fall is originally from Senegal and came to the United States as a high schooler. He started playing basketball very late in his life. It was clear he was still learning the finer points of the game as he played his freshman year at UCF.

Fall’s size is the obvious standout in his profile and scouting report. But he also has more athleticism and coordination than most would think for a player his size. As he got more comfortable on a basketball court, his impact only increased.

He just has to continue working on his strength and conditioning if he wants to find a way onto a NBA roster. Because while he is athletic for his size, he does not have the world class athleticism and lateral mobility modern NBA centers seem to need. Fall is not about to leave the paint anytime soon — UCF often turned to a zone defense with Fall in to keep him rooted in the paint. NBA guards will take advantage of that.

As Lloyd said, the situations where Fall would find a use may be few. The league has changed so much where being tall is not enough to be effective.

But so too has Fall. His game has grown by leaps and bounds. And his success, along with his team’s success is only fueling that growth. Fall still has value in this league.

"“A lot of teams need just a big guy who can protect the paint,” Fall told Orlando Magic Daily. “I feel like I can change the game. There is not a lot of people like me even in the NBA. I feel like if I keep developing at the pace I’m doing, I can really change the game. There are things I already do great like protecting the paint. Offensively from last year to this year, I have gotten better. I will keep improving every year.”"

Fall certainly stands out on the court. But he is still looking for a way to stand out to NBA scouts. His size will always intrigue them. His play just has to continue getting better.

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This year may not be his time to enter the NBA. But certainly, the feedback and work he put in front of NBA executives will help find out how he can make his play as tall as he is in the future.