Tacko fall discusses journey to the NBA and favorite Celtics memories at Suffolk event

Tacko Fall holds up his new Suffolk Rams sweatshirt in Modern Theatre on Sept 11

Former Boston Celtics fan favorite Tacko Fall, who now plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, visited Suffolk University on Sept. 11 for a discussion on his journey to the NBA. 

Suffolk students filled Modern Theatre to hear the 7’5’’ center describe his upbringing in Senegal, his transition to America and some of his favorite Celtics memories.

The event was moderated by Margie Arnold, the partner of Suffolk University President Marisa Kelly.

“It was an amazing experience,” Arnold said. “I learned so much about him not only on the stage but ahead of time doing research on him.”

Arnold said she thinks Suffolk had a unique opportunity to have Fall on campus because of the university’s location in the city. Arnold said that students had mentioned seeing Fall around town because he lived only a few blocks from Suffolk’s campus.

“Tacko asked for a car only because he could not get here without being stopped,” Arnold said. 

Arnold said that in college at the University of Central Florida (UCF), Fall would have to leave for class an hour before it started because he would get stopped by people on campus.

“I thought it was a wonderful opportunity,” Kelly said on having Fall come speak. “I thought it was one of those things that you can do in Boston that just doesn’t happen everywhere.”

Students received photo opportunities with Fall in addition to an extended student-run question and answer session.

Fall first spoke with Arnold about his upbringing in Senegal and some of the struggles he faced there.

With soccer being a huge sport in Senegal growing up, Fall loved to play with his friends and envisioned being a professional when he was older. 

“Sometimes we wouldn’t have an actual ball, so we would take a bunch of plastic bags and stuff, wrap it and make it round enough,” he said. 

Fall discovered basketball at the age of 16 and played the sport casually, but didn’t realize his life would change forever because of it. 

Fall, who still preferred soccer at the time, was recognized for his abnormal 7’3” height as a teenager. This caught the attention of basketball scouts who saw him playing around for fun at local courts in Senegal. 

Six months after he touched a basketball for the first time, Fall was on his way to the United States to make a name for himself. 

“Basketball came into my life pretty late,” Fall said. “It was the last sport that I tried. It wasn’t even something I envisioned as a professional.”

Leaving his mother and brother to play across the world was never in his long-term plans. The hardest part about the move to the US for Fall was not being able to see his family. He even mentioned he went months without seeing his mother’s face.

“My brother and I are very close,” he said. “I don’t look at him as my little brother, I look at him as almost my son.”

From a career standpoint, Fall wanted to be an engineer growing up. He graduated with a degree in business from UCF, where he became known on the national stage. 

Fall made a name for himself during his senior year in the 2019 March Madness tournament, when he and the Knights almost upset the number one seed, the Duke Blue Devils, in the second round. 

“We were really tight, we had fun, we had a great leader in Johnny Dawkins and we made it far in the tournament. We were this close…if I didn’t foul out I would have grabbed that rebound.”

Fall said that the Celtics were the most persistent team he communicated with when he went undrafted out of Central Florida. 

“After the draft, there was a little bit of doubt because you know you work so hard for something and people tell you, ‘Oh, you won’t get it,’” Fall said. 

When asked what the city of Boston meant to Fall during his two years with the Celtics, he said it would always go back to family. 

“Family is unconditional love and I feel like I’ve had that in Boston regardless if I was playing or not,” he said, later adding, “Just know that for me personally, Boston is always going to be another home for me regardless of what team I play for.”

“This is my first time changing teams and I have to admit it’s not fun. Especially for me. It’s like I moved so many times in my life that I’ve always kind of wanted to stick in one place,” he continued. 

Students that were able to meet Fall after the event also enjoyed the company of Celtics center Enes Kanter via FaceTime. A group of pedestrians also gathered on Washington Street to observe and photograph Fall’s departure.

“It was really inspiring to hear his story of how far he has come, I think that he is really grateful for his platform and the ability to come so far,” said Suffolk Student Government Association Treasurer Evan Weston, who attended the event. “I think he was inspiring to us all about pursuing our dreams and going after what you love, and I hope he comes back to Boston frequently.”

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