PORTLAND, Maine — Tacko Fall grew up in Senegal and played college basketball in Florida. He’s never seen snow flutter from the sky. But it’s only a matter of time, since Fall is a new center for the Maine Red Claws basketball team.
“I wasn’t here [when it snowed this week]. I was in Boston,” Fall said, after practice with the team on Thursday. “But when I got here you could see snow on the cars. That was crazy.”
Elhadji Serigne Tacko Diop Fall, standing 7-foot-6, was a preseason phenomenon with the Celtics, the parent club of the Red Claws. An imposing shot blocker with decent agility and an ability to score, fans were often chanting at Boston coach Brad Stevens to give him minutes.
Fall has a two-way contract. It’s a deal where NBA teams can sign a player to their G League team for just under $80,000 — but pay him a daily NBA rookie wage for up to 45 days where he is called up to the big club, which could work out to another $200,000 or more.
Though playing in Boston is a possibility, Fall is expected to spend most of this season in Portland. Turning 24 in less than a month, he’s getting ready for his first winter.
“It’s been an adjustment, especially the weather,” Fall said. “I left a bottle of water in my car and when I saw it this morning, it was frozen. I’ve never seen that before.”
It’s an ironic reality check for the University of Central Florida grad, who stood out for his academics in scientific fields much as his basketball skills. Fall studied advanced mathematics and science while maintaining a 4.0 GPA in high school, and had aspirations to become a computer engineer in the States.
But his encounters with sub-freezing liquid phenomena aside, Fall said he knows what he’s here to do.
“I’m here to get better,” he said.
As a rookie in Boston, he would likely spend most of his time on the bench. Here, he will get much more playing time.
“Yeah, get better,” Fall said, “and, honestly, play as hard as I can.”
The Red Claws’ home opener is Friday, Nov. 15 vs. Fort Wayne, followed by a Sunday matinee on Nov. 17.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.