Nick Ward of College Park tries to avoid a block by Tacko Fall of the Red Claws on Thursday night at the Portland Expo. Rich Obrey photo/NBAE/Getty Images

The last time fans saw Tacko Fall on a basketball court, he was serving as a human hurdle for Orlando’s Aaron Gordon in the slam dunk contest at NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago.

On Thursday night, he was back in uniform for the Maine Red Claws and decidedly not a prop. He blocked five shots and reached double figures in points and rebounds to help the Claws beat the College Park Skyhawks 119-100 before a sellout crowd of 2,417 at the Portland Expo.

The victory was the fifth in six games this month for Maine (25-9).

Folks who came to see the 7-foot-5 Celtics rookie center did not go away disappointed, as Fall showed an expanding repertoire that included a dribble drive, a long outlet pass and even a steal to go along with his usual dunks and alley-oop conversions.

“Teams are starting to double me every time I touch the ball, so this is something that I’m trying to work on,” Fall said. “There were a few times I did kind of a retreat dribble so they can come, and I can throw it out to whoever is open.”

And if the double team doesn’t come?


“On the block,” he said, “there’s not one person who can stop me one-on-one.”

Fall finished with 18 rebounds and 14 points. He was one of five Claws starters to score in double figures, and Trey Davis added 16 off the bench. Yante Maten had 19, Tremont Waters 18 (along with seven assists), Kaiser Gates 16 and Bryce Brown 14.

Eight Claws connected on at least one 3-pointer; Gates and Brown led the way with four apiece.

“The excitement for Tacko gives our team a boost,” Waters said. “We go out there and have a pretty big crowd so we’re able to get momentum when we make a great play.”

The Skyhawks, a G League affiliate of Atlanta, opened an early 10-point lead and entered the break up 62-59 on the strength of 22 points from Jordan Sibert, who hit six 3-pointers. But Maine held Sibert scoreless after intermission and pulled away midway through the third quarter.

So well in hand was the game that Fall even attempted a turn-around jumper from the elbow in the final minute. It clanged off the rim.


“I’m hoping to see him become a better all-around player, which I think he has become better at,” said Coach Darren Erman. “But I don’t think elbow jumpers are going to get him into too many NBA games anytime soon.”

NOTES: The Red Claws dispersed during the eight-day All-Star break, but Fall spent the week in Chicago as a coach with the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders camp for top international-born teenagers.

Last summer, at home in Senegal, he took part in a similar camp.

“I’m just trying to be involved, especially back home, in growing the sport of basketball,” he said. “The earlier you get started in that, the better.”

Fall, of course, didn’t make the switch from soccer until he was a teenager. In Chicago, he received more attention for his role in the slam dunk contest. He faced the basket and held a ball behind his head as Gordon approached, leaped, snatched and dunked.

“Aaron and I didn’t talk about it,” Fall said, “but in the back of my mind, I was like, yeah, something like that might happen.”

Comments are not available on this story.