CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tacko Fall is ready for an opportunity to play at the next level.
The 7-6 center from Senegal has met with multiple NBA teams, including the Knicks, Magic, Lakers and Cavaliers, over the last few months. He’s hoping one of them will take a chance on him during the 2019 draft, which is set for June 20.
“That’s the goal,” Fall said after working out for the Hornets on Thursday. “Hear my name called. That would mean a lot for me, for my country. … I would do whatever it takes. I know I want to play in the NBA.”
Fall will undoubtedly be a project for any team that selects him. His offense is raw, and he'll struggle to guard the pick-and-roll.
But, with his size, he’s an excellent shot blocker. He has the potential to carve out a role for himself in the NBA because of his ability to protect the rim.
“I’m really known for defense,” Fall said. “That’s what I can bring to a team. … I feel like I can affect the game like no other. Just use my size, my length. I’ve really worked on my body, I’m a lot stronger, I’m a lot quicker for someone my size, I can move pretty well. Those are things I can use right away. I can help any team doing that.”
Fall proved he can play elite-level defense last season as a senior at Central Florida. He was a game-changing center in the middle because he deterred opponents from driving to the rim and consistently altered shots.
"No matter how much the game changes, you're always going to need somebody that's going to protect the paint and block shots," Fall said last month, via Forbes. "People shoot a lot of 3's but the game is not all 3's. You need a presence inside there that you know you can count on that nobody is going to lay the ball up. And that's something I do pretty well."
Fall has already shown he can deliver against top talent on one of the game’s biggest stages. He scored 15 points, grabbed six rebounds and blocked three shots while matched up with Duke star Zion Williamson — the projected No. 1 pick in 2019 — in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Central Florida nearly pulled off the upset, but Aubrey Dawkins’ put-back attempt in the final second rolled off the rim.
“(Fall) makes guys change their shot without even jumping,” said Dawkins, who also worked out with the Hornets on Thursday. “Just putting his hand up is enough to make a guy throw the ball over the backboard. So, for us, it’s almost a safety net and gives us the confidence to guard our man because even if we do get beat we know we have the best defender in the country behind us helping us.”
Fall needs to develop his offensive game, however, he was a reliable scorer at UCF. He averaged 11.1 points and shot 74.8% from the field in 2018-19.
While he may not replicate those numbers, Fall said he believes he’ll be able to contribute on that end of the floor at some point in his NBA career by keeping it “simple.”
“I have the size and I’m getting a lot stronger,” Fall said. “I’m working on getting a good touch around the rim, hook shots, catching lobs.”
Fall will likely be a late second-round selection and may not be picked at all. Despite the uncertainty, Fall has enjoyed the pre-draft process and everything that has come along with it.
“I’m having the time of my life,” Fall said. “Playing basketball. Going to different cities. Meeting different people. It has been really fun.”