At 7’6”, Tacko Fall provides a tall order for USF

USF sophomore center Ruben Guerrero (left), who stands 6-foot-11, tries to guard UCF's 7-foot-6 center Tacko Fall (right) in Wednesday's meeting in the Sun Dome. ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

When the USF men’s basketball team stepped out of the tunnel of CFE Arena in Orlando two weeks ago, the Bulls looked across the floor and watched as UCF’s 7-foot-6 monster center Tacko Fall dunked with his size 22 shoes firmly planted on the hardwood.

Senior center Jaleel Cousins, USF’s tallest player at 6-foot-11, thought to himself, “How am I about to get this ball over him?”

It is a question teams across the nation are wondering. Standing firmly as one of the tallest players in the country — only tied with UC Irvin’s Mamadou N’diaye — Fall is a matchup nightmare.

“There are only 40 other humans that big in the world,” USF’s 6-foot-7 coach, Orlando Antigua, said.

“He’s a big human being.”

Fall came over from Dakar, Senegal in 2012 with another athlete, Ange Badji. after spending his freshman and sophomore years in his native country. Fall finished his high school years bouncing around from Texas to Tennessee, according to an ESPN article.

Now a freshman at UCF, when Fall enters the Sun Dome tonight for his second meeting with the Bulls, he’ll likely draw much attention, or at least more than a more typically-sized athlete.

USF was able to hold Fall back to his lowest point total of the season (2) on Jan. 6.  But with him coming off a 23-point, 10-rebound game against Stetson on Saturday, the Bulls will have their hands full.

That doesn’t mean Antigua doesn’t have a plan. With a guy that size — nearly 300 pounds — his minutes are limited before fatigue sets in. Antigua’s plan is simple: get him tired as fast as possible.

“You have to try and run him,” he said. “You have to try and move him when he’s on defense and you have to take it to him first and use your quickness and not your size.”

Awareness is also key in getting around the giant from Senegal. When he’s planted under the rim, up and over just isn’t an option. His 32nd-ranked 2.1 blocks per game are a testament to that.

“You just have to get the ball around him,” Cousins said. “You really have to pump fake him and hope that he jumps on the first one. You have to go around him. He’s not even going to jump; he’ll block it standing straight up.”

It’s hard to believe someone could forget about such a colossal being. But if someone does, Fall is quick to remind you of his presence.

“A lot of us tried to go through him or forgot that he was 7-foot-6 and tried to throw up a regular shot and we got it swatted.”

Cousins, who leads USF with 1.8 blocks per game, has already conceded defeat in that category, but hopes to use what little size he has in relation to Fall to muscle his way around defensively.

“I already know I’m not going to be able to block that shot. That ball is going to be too high in the air,” Cousins said. “So the best thing for us to do is just push him off the block and not let him get any easy buckets.

“It’s just getting low and pushing him out. If you can get him away from the goal, I don’t think there’s really too much he can do.”