Alfes: Finding a fit for UCF’s Fall can be a challenge

UCF product Tacko Fall puts in some work at the NBA Combine last month in Chicago.

There are no dress shoes that fit the 7-foot-6, 311-pound Tacko Fall.

“They don’t make anything with my size, so I kind of get used to it,” Fall said.

There might, however, be an NBA team that does have a mold for the 23-year-old, Senegalese giant.

“I can change the game in a lot of ways,” Fall said. “I feel really blessed and fortunate to be in the position that I’m in right now.”

Fall wore one of Nike’s few existing pairs of size 22 shoes while breaking all-time records at the 2019 NBA Combine, including the longest wingspan (8 feet, 2.23 inches), tallest height with shoes (7 feet, 7 inches) and highest standing reach (10 feet, 2.5 inches).

Had it not been for the G League Elite Camp — a three-day tuneup for the NBA Combine — Fall would not have received the invitation to make his overarching, tree-like presence felt in front of front offices and coaches. He did, though, and took advantage of the opportunity in Chicago.

“I worked really hard to get to this point and it’s been fun,” Fall said.

After tallying 15 points and three blocks against Zion Williamson and Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, all that’s left for Fall to prove is whether he can keep pace at the game’s highest level.

“I feel like [NBA teams] already knew a lot about my game,” Fall said. “The few question marks were, ‘Can he keep up with the game? Can he run up and down the floor?’ Those are the things that I’ve improved a lot, especially for someone my size.”

Fall was faster than three players in the shuttle run, posting a 3.46-second clip to beat Georgia’s Nicolas Claxton, Kansas’ Dedric Lawson and LSU’s Naz Reid in a back-and-forth test of agility. Understandably, he was also the slowest in the lane agility (13.01 seconds) and three-quarter sprint (3.78 seconds) events.

Given his size, Fall makes the most of his athleticism. Aside from undergoing shoulder surgery in 2018, he has no major injuries or issues that would hinder his mobility. This season at UCF, he averaged a career-high 2.6 blocks and 11.1 points while bringing his turnovers per game down to 1.8, his lowest mark since freshman year.

Strides have been made, and a 10-to-15-minute NBA workload comparable to that of Philadelphia’s Boban Marjanovic or Dallas’ Salah Mejri seems reasonable for Fall. NBA Scouting Live says Fall has good hands and is gifted at rebounding and shot blocking, with shooting beyond the paint and free throws being the primary areas for concern.

When Fall had to switch and play defense against faster players during scrimmages at the NBA Combine, he felt he belonged.

“We pretty much switched one through five and I was in a lot of positions where I had to step out and guard out of my comfort zone and I feel like I still did pretty well,” Fall said. “I might not be the quickest guy out there obviously, but I can hold my own.”

Fall certainly held his own against Williamson, undoubtedly the best player in the 2019 NBA Draft Class and arguably the top prospect since Anthony Davis in 2012.

The NBA is now a game of positionless basketball, though, which means Fall is going to have to go out of that aforementioned comfort zone and switch one through five routinely. More three-pointers are being made now than ever before, and NBA teams have proven to foul and force poor shooters like Fall to make free throws.

There are legitimate concerns, and a professional opportunity for Fall might be best found outside the United States and Canada. But Fall says he fits the NBA — and his performances at the NBA Combine and individual workouts have been an encouraging step in achieving that dream.

“I feel like I competed and I showed what I could do,” Fall said. “Now it’s just a matter of staying the course and God will take care of the rest.”