Celtics

Tacko Fall reflects on development as a basketball player: 'I was terrible'

Tacko Fall reflects on development as a basketball player: 'I was terrible'

Tacko Fall has become one of the city of Boston's hottest names in recent weeks. Since signing with the Boston Celtics as an undrafted free agent out of UCF, the 7-foot-7 center he has become a fan-favorite and has done quite a bit to insert himself into the battle for a spot on the Celtics' roster.

But things weren't always easy for Fall. When he first came over to the United States from Senegal during his high school days, he was just learning how to play the sport. And by his own admission at the Basketball Hall of Fame's 60 Days of Summer program, he wasn't very good.

"I was terrible," Fall said. "I was terrible when I had first started. But obviously, when you start a new sport, there is going to be a learning curve. That doesn't mean you're bad, it just means you need to learn how to play the game. So, I went through that, but I just put my head down and knew I was on a mission over here. And thankfully, I had a lot of people helping me with my game mentally and I just never gave up. I just kept pushing."

Fall's hard work paid off, as he was able to develop into a solid high school player and was heavily recruited by colleges because of his size and performance. He would eventually go on to play at UCF and spend four years at the school.

Fall credited his development to having a chance to learn from Hakeem Olajuwon, who helped to mentor Fall during his early days in Texas, and the UCF coaching staff. But additionally, he credited another unlikely source for helping him in basketball. And that was soccer, a sport that he had played frequently while growing up in Senegal. 

"What soccer does is it really helps you with your footwork," Fall said. "That's the main thing. And as you may have seen, a lot of guys that played soccer before and made the transition to basketball really have a different type of footwork and really can move pretty well. So, I feel like that's what soccer really helped me with."

And Fall's footwork was one of the things that he wanted to show off during his time in the Las Vegas Summer League.

Despite Fall's great senior season at UCF -- he averaged 11.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks per game in 2018-19 -- he went undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft. He was scooped up by the Boston Celtics soon after the draft and was ready to prove himself in the summer league.

In Vegas, Fall would become one of the biggest stars because of his ability to make easy standing dunks and impact shots on the defensive end. The fan-favorite averaged 7.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks in just over 12 minutes per game. And when he reflected on his experience there, he was very grateful for the fan support he received early in his NBA career. 

"I’m thankful," Fall said of the support he received during the summer league. "I feel really blessed to be in the position that I am. I didn’t expect what happened in Vegas, but whenever I stepped on the court and looked around and I saw all these people cheering for me — like I said, where I came from — it really inspired me to keep pushing. Thank you for your support, I really appreciate it and it doesn’t go unnoticed."

The next step in Fall's inspirational story will be fighting for a spot on the Celtics roster. He will have a chance to compete for one of 15 roster spots and two two-way contracts over the course of the Celtics' training camp and the NBA preseason.

But it's certainly safe to say that fans will be rooting for him in that pursuit.

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How Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford and Tremont Waters fared for Red Claws on Friday

How Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Romeo Langford and Tremont Waters fared for Red Claws on Friday

The Maine Red Claws had plenty of star power for Friday night's game vs. the Iowa Wolves. 

Tacko Fall, Carsen Edwards, Tremont Waters and Romeo Langford each suited up for Maine in its 127-121 victory. It marked Edwards' first game with the Red Claws, as well as both Tacko Fall and Romeo Langford's first game back from injury.

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Here's how the four Celtics rookies performed:

TACKO FALL

Tacko made his mark in his 14 minutes played on Friday night. The 7-foot-5 phenom contributed 13 points on 5-for-8 shooting while bringing down 5 rebounds.

CARSEN EDWARDS

Edwards was solid in his first game in a Red Claws uniform as he racked up 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting (2-for-9 from 3-pt).

ROMEO LANGFORD

Langford was slow out the gate, but picked it up in the second half to finish with 8 points, 3 assists and 3 rebounds. The Celtics' No. 14 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft will look to simply stay healthy going forward, as he's dealt with a nagging ankle injury all season.

TREMONT WATERS

Waters, the G League Player of the Month for November, was relatively quiet in this one. The LSU product dropped 8 points while adding 3 assists in 27 minutes.

Also with standout performances were Yante Maten (26 points, 16 rebounds), Kaiser Gates (17 points, 7 rebounds), Bryce Brown (15 points, 4 assists) and Justin Bibbs (12 points, 6 rebounds).

Next, the Red Claws will take on the Grand Rapids Drive on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Celtics Talk Podcast: What is your level of confidence with this Celtics team?

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Celtics Talk Podcast: What is your level of confidence with this Celtics team?

Ahead of a strange five-day break in mid-December, the Boston Celtics are sitting at 17-7. But it's hard to figure out exactly how confident to be in this team.

On the one hand, the squad has certainly surpassed expectations to kick off the season. They have been dominant at the TD Garden and did have a 10-game home winning streak to start the campaign.

However, the C's just dropped two close games in a row to other Eastern Conference powers, the Philadelphia 76ers and the Indiana Pacers. Do those losses mean that the confidence in the Celtics that many were feeling to start the season should wane?

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On the latest episode of the Celtics Talk Podcast, Chris Forsberg, A. Sherrod Blakely, and Abby Chin all weighed in on how confident they currently are in the Celtics. And despite the team's mini losing streak, they all are still fairly confident in the squad.

Chin gave the team a 7-of-10 confidence rating. She cited the performance of the Celtics' bigs against the 76ers and the "flashes" the team has shown this season as the primary reasons for that.

I feel like the Celtics bigs, Daniel Theis and Enes Kanter, did a serviceable job against Joel Embiid and held their own on the offensive end, and that gave me a lot of confidence in this team. I think that there's no way you're going to get that kind of game from Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on the same night maybe ever again in their careers in what they put up against the Sixers. And I still think we see flashes of what this team can be here and there which is why I'm excited about them.

Blakely was a bit more non-committal on a rating, and instead gave a range of somewhere between 7 to 8 with 8.5 being their ceiling.

I see two different teams. I see a team when they're complete and I see a team when they're incomplete. When they're incomplete, I'm with you, they're a 7. They were incomplete against Philly. When you have a healthy Marcus Smart and a relatively healthy, good-to-go health-wise team, they're an 8.

Blakely also called the Celtics "a good team" and said that if every team in the Eastern Conference was fully healthy, his top two teams would be the Milwaukee Bucks and the Celtics.

Hear Forsberg's confidence in the Celtics along with more analysis from Blakley and Chin on the latest episode of "The Celtics Talk Podcast," which drops every week on YouTube and as a part of the NBC Sports Boston podcast network.

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Don't miss NBC Sports Boston's coverage of Celtics-Mavericks, which tips off Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. with Celtics Pregame Live, and then Mike & Scal have the call at 9:30 p.m. You can also stream the game on the MyTeams App.