University of Central Florida center Tacko Fall is one of the most polarizing basketball players in the world, and it’s for good reason. Fall, whose real name is Elhadji Tacko Sereigne Diop Fall, stands 7-foot-6 and towers over virtually every player he’s faced at the collegiate level.
Fall has quite an interesting backstory which features a very late start in basketball compared to many other college basketball players. But although he began playing later in his life, the UCF big man drew plenty of attention from scouts. Let’s dive in and take a deeper look at Fall and both his basketball career and life.
Tacko Fall Was Born & Raised in Senegal
Fall was born on December 10, 1995, in Dakar, Senegal. Dakar is the capital and largest city in the country. The decision to make the move to the United States came when he was 16 years old. When he came to America, Fall had never played basketball and his first flight ever was the one to the United States, per UCF.com.
When the 7-foot-6 high-schooler made the move, he knew very little English and spoke Wolof, his native language as well as French. This made Fall a 16-year-old in a brand new place who had to learn the language essentially in its entirety.
Fall Began Playing Basketball at Age 16, Got Tips From NBA Legend
Fall’s jump into basketball wasn’t exactly an early-life decision. The wheels began turning when he was 16 years old and made the aforementioned move to the United States. Fall and Senegalese teenage basketball player, Ange Badji, flew to Houston, Texans, and as Peter Kerasotis of UCF.com revealed, he had never played basketball at that point.
When he first came to America, it was more about getting an education and providing for his family than playing basketball, per the school’s website.
But back then, he arrived in America with little more than the hope of receiving a better education, and if he was lucky, of being able to provide for his mother and brother. Basketball would be his shot at a bigger life, but there would be some misses along the way.
While things didn’t go perfectly right out of the gate, he met NBA legend Hakeem Olajuwon, who worked with Fall to show him footwork techniques for big men. Although this didn’t propel his career as a basketball player, it was a nice starting point.
Fall is One of the Tallest Living People in the World
Not surprisingly, Fall’s height draws quite a bit of attention anywhere he goes, including even before he went to UCF. As Eric Adelson of Yahoo! Sports revealed back in 2014, during his time at Liberty Christian Prep, he’d get photos taken of him by fellow students and anyone else around the school.
As Adelson points out, Fall understood the reasoning, as he was one of the tallest people in the world.
He smiles and stands under the basketball hoop, reaching up with that same left arm and nearly touching the rim without lifting his heels. He smiles for a photo. He’s used to that. He gets snapped wherever he goes, even without his permission.
He understands. He’s one of the 60 or so tallest people known ever to walk the Earth.
“I would be surprised to see me, too,” he quips.
Fall Scored in the 95th Percentile on the SAT
Not only is the UCF center a solid basketball player, but he’s incredibly intelligent as well. While Fall had to learn English and play catch-up in high school, he apparently had little trouble with either of those things.
As ESPN’s Jeff Borzello reported (via ABC News), Fall mastered English fluently within eight months and took advanced classes. This included both math and sciences and took the SAT after just three months of school. Per Borzello, Fall scored in the 95th percentile nationally on the test.
He Was the Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2017
Tacko Fall has put together a strong collegiate career with the Knights, including being named the American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year in 2016-17. During that season (his sophomore campaign), he averaged 10.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and an impressive 2.6 blocks per game.
Fall is a force in the paint and makes life tough for opponents, which has been the case for both of the years to follow that season as well. During 2018-19, UCF ranked as the No. 28 best defensive team in the country in terms of points per game allowed, giving up 64.3 on average.
Through the first 113 games of his career with the Knights, Fall has averaged 2.4 blocks per game and has shot 74.1 percent from the field. Entering his final season, the center needed just 33 blocks to become the school’s all-time leader, and through 31 games he had racked up 77 to take the top spot.