The first-year Vol head man recently offered a scholarship to Elhadji Serigne Tacko Diop Fall, who – believe it or not – has a frame even longer than his name.
Tacko Fall stands 7-feet-5, reportedly making him the tallest high school basketball player in the world. His length forces him to sleep diagonally across his bed. He reportedly has grown three inches since October and recently told TMZ Sports he expects to grow another two inches.
Originally from Senegal, Fall left Africa for America about a year ago. Due to limited basketball experience, he averaged just 11.1 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game last winter as a junior at Liberty Christian Academy in Tavares, Fla. Still, college recruiters believe his height and eight-foot wingspan could make for a lethal combination someday.
His head coach at Liberty Christian vividly recalls his reaction the first time he saw the towering Tacko.
"Wow!" Tony Atkins told InsideTennessee. "That would be it. I've been around a lot of big guys, even a couple of 7-footers, but nothing like him. Dakari Johnson (who started 18 games as a freshman at Kentucky in 2013-14) played for me, as well. Tacko is just huge."
Even packing 270 pounds on his frame, Fall appears skinny. Not surprisingly, his coordination is lagging a bit. Still, Atkins says the player has made tremendous strides in recent months.
"He's grown leaps and bounds," the coach said. "We've only had him a year. Every day he gets better. He's always had a clue, and he loves to play. But now, with the strength and conditioning program we've got him on, he's moving a lot better. We're still a long way off but where he is now, compared to this time last year, is almost 100 percent improvement."
Stamina might be Fall's greatest area of progress.
"Last year he couldn't make but three or four trips up the floor, and he was winded," Atkins said. "Now he plays 10 minutes at a time."
The coach said Fall has been in the U.S. "a little over a year," adding: "He played very little basketball in Senegal. Organized basketball … he's been playing for 16 months."
Like most big guys, Fall is lacking in quickness. He's working diligently to become more fluid and dynamic in his movements.
"His reaction time is getting better," Atkins said. "He just needs to get used to the speed of the game here in the United States. He's great at protecting the rim when it's right in front of him but he's got to learn to be a better help defender."
Not surprisingly, Fall spends most of each game camped out near the basket, where he can catch lob passes and grab rebounds – often without leaving the floor.
"We teach him to post deep because of his size," Atkins said. "There's not a whole lot of people who can push him off the block."
Although the coach estimates that "eighty-percent plus" of Fall's baskets are dunks, the big guy is no one-trick pony.
"He has a really good jump hook," Atkins said. "We work a lot on jump hooks, playing with his back to the basket. Of course, we tell him if he's close enough to dunk it, dunk it."
Being a foot shorter, opposing centers generally prove incapable of stopping Fall when he gets the ball near the basket. In desperation, they foul him a lot. This tactic routinely backfires.
"He has unbelievable touch for his size," Atkins said. He basically can wrap his whole hand around a basketball but he has a nice touch and pretty good form on free throws; he makes people pay who foul him."
Fall gave several strong performances last season. One stands above the rest to his coach.
"He had a great game against IMG Academy – 20 points, 11 rebounds, 9 blocks," Atkins recalled. "He almost had a triple-double."
Because of his gangly frame and size-22 feet, Fall looks a bit awkward when he runs. His coach says running the floor is the strongest aspect of the player's game, however.
"He can really run," Atkins said. "It takes him about nine steps to go from one end to the other end. When he's pushing he can really run. That was really impressive the first time I saw him – how well he can run. He can pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down. He can move for a guy with size 22s."
Although new to the U.S., Fall is thriving in America's educational system. He reportedly has a 4.0 grade-point average and plans to be a biochemist someday.
Even if Tennessee can't sign Tacko Fall, pursuing him could produce a nice consolation prize. Reportedly, he has a younger brother, age 7, who already stands 5-feet-9.