Tacko Fall says he can change the game in the NBA with his ability to protect the paint and alter shots.
But, it may not happen until next year.
The 7-foot-6 center from UCF is currently testing the NBA waters and says he is undecided on if he’ll return to school next year or stay in the NBA Draft. Underclassmen have until Wednesday to make a final decision and it sounds like Fall will take all of his allotted time to do so.
Fall has worked out with the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic so far and has a workout scheduled with the Utah Jazz on Saturday and may have a final workout with the Houston Rockets.
“It has been really stressful, I would say, just thinking about it,” Fall said. “It’s a great decision, one of the most important decisions I have made ever since I chose a college, really. So, it’s definitely going to be stressful. I did get a lot of feedback from those [teams] just telling me the things I need to work on and the things I do great and all of that.”
For now, Fall is going to take all of the feedback he receives from teams to help make a decision on his future. Since this new rule that allows underclassmen to test the NBA waters was established last year, players have taken advantage of it in order to have a better understanding of where they can improve to have a chance to play in the NBA.
Given his size and eight-foot wingspan, Fall has proven that he can protect the paint and block shots. He averaged 10.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 36 games this season for the Knights. He finished 12th in the country in blocks, sixth in defensive win shares and second in defensive rating. He was named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
“A lot of teams need a big guy that can protect the paint and I feel like I can change the game because there is not a lot of people like me even in the NBA,” Fall said. “I feel like if I keep developing at the pace I’m going, I can really change the game. There are things I already do great like protecting the paint.”
Fall helped anchor a stout defense for UCF all season long. They held opponents to the lowest shooting percentage in the nation, as well as fourth in scoring defense and 21st in three-point defense. Teams had a difficult time scoring inside when Fall was on the court and were forced to create other scoring opportunities.
Perhaps most critical for UCF this season was that Fall was able to stay on the court longer. During his freshman year, he averaged 17.6 minutes per game but managed to improve that number to 26.3 minutes per game this season. Conditioning was a big concern for him during his freshman season, but he worked on it last summer and his improvement showed.
He was limited to how many minutes he could play that first season at UCF, but he looked much more comfortable this past season on the court. Teams knew that once Fall was off of the court, they could get into the paint much easier so it became critical for Fall to improve his conditioning. New head coach Johnny Dawkins could play him during longer and it helped the Knights greatly.
“During the summer, our strength and conditioning coach had me by myself just doing a lot of stuff,” Fall said. “That was really the biggest improvement. I was a lot more patient because as a freshman I was kind of all over the place. I was more relaxed and comfortable.”
Many project Fall will return to school next season as they believe he is still another year away from solidifying his place in the NBA. While he’s most effective on defense, questions still remain about his conditioning and how long he’d be able to play at NBA speed. His offensive game is still limited to the paint and he lacks touch around the rim at times.
Can he be an NBA player?
“There are situations that he could be,” Magic interim general manager Matt Lloyd said. “The league is so geared toward speed and recovery, but basket protection is one thing that he can do. He can stay in front of the basket and be a deterrent. So, there are situations that he can be. I think any of the players that we’ve brought in have a situation that they can thrive in, and Tacko absolutely falls in that category.”
Once the time comes, Fall says he will sit down with his family and coach at UCF to make a decision. He says Coach Dawkins has been supportive throughout this process and wants the best for Fall in whatever decision he makes.
It may not be until next year that Fall goes off to the NBA, but it’s clear that he has his sights on making a lasting impression on the league.
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