football Edit

UCF next in Falls journey

Tavares, Fla. - Standing in front of a packed church auditorium, Tacko Fall paused a moment to reflect on the two-year journey that brought him from his birthplace of Dakar, Senegal to the United States, ultimately settling in Lake County and the welcoming arms of the Liberty Baptist community.
Soccer was his sport growing up - as it is for all the youth of the West African nation - but basketball could be his ticket to a better life. In a sport that treasures height, they don't come any taller than the 7-foot-6 Fall who doesn't even need to jump to touch the hoop's 10-foot rim.
Once his first highlight tape surfaced, it didn't take long for the soft-spoken 18-year-old to become a prep and recruiting sensation. Earlier this spring, the nation was introduced to the "tallest high school player in America" during a CBS News segment with additional publicity coming from countless newspapers and blogs including USA Today, TMZ and even the United Kingdom's Daily Mail.
Major college offers followed, including UCF, Georgia Tech, Georgetown, Wake Forest and Purdue among others.
Two weeks ago, Fall ended his recruitment with a commitment to UCF and head coach Donnie Jones. He officially signed his National Letter of Intent Wednesday morning.
"I want to say thanks to everyone for coming and sharing this moment with me," Fall told the student body of Liberty Christian and the dozens the supporters gathered to celebrate his big moment. "It's been quite a trip since last year. I never thought I would be here honestly. It's been quite the trip. God put the right people around me. I'm really thankful for that. Also the students. My little kids I call them. God has really blessed me. The pastor said I was a blessing, but you all were the blessing. I would like to tell all of y'all, thank you."
Fall had his pick of many schools, but the one he kept thinking about was UCF. It also doesn't hurt that he'll be less than an hour away from his new family - host parents Mandy and Davis Talmage and the growing network of friends and mentors at Liberty Baptist.
"You can't go somewhere where you don't feel comfortable and I feel really comfortable with UCF and the environment there," Fall said. "I'll have all these people really close. I have a good relationship with Coach (Donnie) Jones and the players too. I felt really close with the players... I know it's the right place. I can help bring the program to the next level. They're putting the pieces together, so hopefully I can help with that."
Fall is one component of a star-studded 2015 recruiting haul that also includes Deltona power forward Chad Brown and Daytona State small forward Tanksley Efianayi. Winter Haven guard Chance McSpadden is expected to sign Thursday. It's a group that some believe can be considered a top 25 class nationally.
"I want to help UCF win the conference," Fall said. "My long term goal is I want to go to the NBA. I have a lot of goals that I think going to the NBA is going to facilitate."
Fall also has academic goals. He's a 4.0 student with plans to major in perhaps mechanical or computer engineering.
It's something he never would have dreamed of two years ago back in Senegal.
"I was so far away and I had never played basketball," Fall said. "God works in amazing ways. He put the right people around me. They helped me move forward."
His journey to America first took him to Houston, where Fall says he was honored to meet with NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, one of the most dominant big men of his era. In today's game, Fall says he has a few favorites he tries to model his game after.
"I look at all the big guys in the NBA and try to learn from them," Fall said. "See how they play, how they move, so I can use that to help my game. I watch a lot of Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan and Roy Hibbert too."
Fall said the decision lifts a big weight off his shoulders.
"Now I can focus on playing and having fun," he said. "My senior year, hopefully we can win the conference. That's what I want."
A year from now, Fall will be beginning his freshman season at UCF.
"I'm excited, just really excited," he said.
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