When the UCF men’s basketball team tips off its season tonight at 7 p.m. at Davidson, the team will have something it has never had: a 7-foot-6 player.
Freshman Tacko Fall was cleared by the NCAA yesterday to participate and travel with his team after a process requiring waivers to be filled out for international students.
“The thing that’s been most impressive about Tacko is his ability to listen and pick up things quick,” head coach Donnie Jones said during the team’s media day. “With big guys, it usually takes longer because they usually try to process it. But with Tacko, he’s got great hands, great feet, a terrific runner, obviously you can’t teach 7-[foot]-6, 300 pounds running down the floor.
“Just to have that presence when we’ve never had that here changes games.”
The Knights finished 12-18 last season, but they got there in part because they didn’t necessarily have the size needed to compete at the Division I level. Justin McBride, Staphon Blair, Shaheed Davis and Dylan Karell were the only players who were 6-foot-9 or taller, but Blair was the only one to see significant playing time.
This season, the team has six guys that height or taller: Fall, McBride, Blair, Davis, A.J. Davis and Chad Brown. But Fall with have the most presence around the rim as he helps rebound on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
“He can definitely help us out in those areas that we were lacking,” sophomore Adonys Henriquez said. “[He’s] going to give us second-chance points. He’s going to give us something that we just haven’t had. We’re just going to need him to come in, play that role of just being smart, being tough, rebounding; that grit guy.”
Henriquez especially expects Fall to have an impact today against Davidson, which has boasted some top-notch guards.
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.