2019 Draft Workouts: Tacko Fall

June 5, 2019 - UCF center Tacko Fall speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.

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2019 Draft Workouts: Tacko Fall

June 5, 2019 - UCF center Tacko Fall speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
Jun 5, 2019  |  02:32

2019 Draft Workouts: Mfiondu Kabengele

June 5, 2019 - Florida State forward Mfiondu Kabengele talked about his development as a player and where he thinks he would fit best in the NBA.
Jun 5, 2019  |  01:47

2019 Draft Workouts: Ky Bowman

June 5, 2019 - Boston College guard Ky Bowman speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
Jun 5, 2019  |  01:33

2019 Draft Workouts: Shizz Alston

June 5, 2019 - Temple guard Shizz Alston, coming off of a career year, talked about what skills he believes he can bring to an NBA roster.
Jun 5, 2019  |  01:29

2019 Draft Workouts: Elijah Thomas

June 5, 2019 - Clemson forward Elijah Thomas talked about the experience he gained from playing in the ACC and what parts of his game he thinks will translate to the NBA.
Jun 5, 2019  |  02:09

2019 Draft Workouts: Juwan Morgan

June 5, 2019 - Indiana forward Juwan Morgan speaks with Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss following his pre-draft workout with the Pacers at the St. Vincent Center.
Jun 5, 2019  |  01:43

Pacers Set Sights High at Wednesday's Workout

7-7 Tacko Fall, Potential First-Rounder Mfiondu Kabengele Highlight Third Pre-Draft Workout
by Wheat Hotchkiss
Pacers.com Writer/Editor
@Wheat_Hotchkiss

All eyes were looking up at Tacko Fall during Wednesday's pre-draft workout at the St. Vincent Center — literally.

Six players auditioned before the Pacers' brass on Wednesday, including former Indiana University star Juwan Morgan and potential first-round pick Mfiondu Kabengele, but it was Fall, the towering center out of UCF who measured at 7 feet, 7 inches in shoes at the NBA Draft Combine last month, who cast the largest shadow over the proceedings.

Even the other players in the workout couldn't help but marvel at Fall's sheer size. Elijah Thomas, a 6-9 forward from Clemson who was named to the ACC All-Defensive team each of the last two seasons, laughed about attempting to guard Fall on Wednesday.

"It's kind of like a video game," Thomas quipped.

For much of his college career, Fall was considered a novelty, but not a serious NBA prospect. But that has changed dramatically over the past year.

2019 DRAFT CENTRAL: Complete Coverage at Pacers.com/Draft »

He capped off a senior season in which he averaged 11.1 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks over 24.8 minutes per game with a strong showing in the NCAA Tournament. Fall tallied 13 points, 18 rebounds, and five blocks in a first-round win over VCU, then led the Knights to a near-upset of top-seeded Duke in the next round. Fall held his own against the Blue Devils' vaunted front line that included the presumptive top pick in this year's NBA Draft, Zion Williamson, and a pair of other likely top-10 picks in R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, accumulating 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting, six rebounds, and three blocks in 25 minutes before fouling out.

Last month, Fall was invited to the G League Elite Camp and played well enough there to earn an invite to the Combine, where he set a number of records for his measurements. Fall was the first player ever to register a wingspan over 8 feet (Fall's outstretched arms cover 8 feet, 2.25 inches) and confirmed that he can dunk without leaving his feet, thanks to a standing reach of 10 feet, 2.5 inches.

Suddenly, Fall seems like a lock to hear his name called on draft night. He won't go in the lottery, but it's hard to imagine a team not taking a chance on him in the second round.

"Whenever people see me, it's like, 'Oh yeah, he's tall, but can he play?'," Fall said. "It's something that I had to work on. I have worked really hard. I have great people around me that have helped me become the player I am today. I just have to keep working."

Tacko Fall, Mfiondu Kabengele receive instruction from Pacers assistant Dan Burke

Fall (left) towered over everyone at Wednesday's pre-draft workout, even the 6-10 Mfiondu Kabengele (back center). (Photo Credit: @Pacers)

Fall is four inches taller than 7-3 Boban Marjanovic, who played for the Clippers and Philadelphia last season and has been the tallest player in the NBA for several seasons. Gheorghe Mureșan and Manute Bol, both listed at 7-7, are the tallest players in NBA history.

Marjanovic has carved out a nice niche for himself in the league, someone who can log a handful of minutes each half and wreak havoc on opponents with his height, collecting easy buckets on offense and protecting the rim defensively.

Fall could potentially enjoy a similar role in the NBA. He dominated smaller opponents in college, taking almost all of his shots within a few feet of the basket and converting at a 74.8 percent clip as a senior while blocking over 4.1 shots per 40 minutes on the other end.

But like most players his size, Fall struggles mightily from the free throw line. He went just 59-for-163 (36.2 percent) from the charity stripe as a senior.

He didn't get a chance to display his shooting stroke in the shooting drills visible to the media at the end of Wednesday's workout after rolling his ankle during an earlier scrimmage session, but he said he was able to participate in most of the workout.

And while he offers an intimidating presence at the rim, teams may question Fall's ability to defend without fouling, particularly against the world-class athletes he'll encounter at the NBA level.

"That's one of the biggest question marks they may have with somebody my size," Fall said. "'Can he move? Can he keep up with the person (he's guarding)? Can he move up and down?'

"All those things I've improved tremendously. I can run the floor pretty well for someone my size, I can move laterally a lot better. I have the length, it's just a matter of going out there and showing it."

Fall was born in Senegal and did not come to the United States until he was 16. When most children in America are getting their driver's license, Fall was learning a new language thousands of miles away from home.

In the years since, he has developed from a gangly giant to a player capable of going toe-to-toe with a future number one pick. The sacrifices that transformation has entailed have been immense — he went seven years without seeing his mother before she attended his Senior Night game at UCF this spring.

That journey has given Fall an added appreciation for what it would mean to hear his name called on draft night.

"It would mean a lot, not just for me, but for my country, especially," he said. "Being able to make the NBA, not a lot of people get that chance where I'm from. That's the way I want to represent my country.

"And personally, getting my name called in the NBA, having the opportunity to play against great players, players that I have watched for a lot of years...that'd be one of the best days of my life."

Mfiondu Kabengele

The combination of Kabengele's shot-blocking and 3-point shooting make him an enticing prospect to teams in the market for a big man. (Photo Credit: @Pacers)

From Sixth Man to the Lottery?

Fall owes a debt of gratitude to Kabengele's uncle, Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo, who together with Bol and Hakeem Olajuwon helped pave the path for players from Africa to make it to the NBA.

Perhaps it was poetic then, that two players of African descent squared off with each other at Wednesday's workout.

While Fall drew more attention, Kabengele is likely to hear his name called earlier on draft night. Many mock drafts have the 6-10 forward/center out of Florida State going in the first round. ESPN.com currently has him going to Brooklyn with the 17th overall pick, right before the Pacers pick at 18. NBADraft.net actually has Kabengele going in the top 10.

Kabengele, whose mother is Mutombo's sister, is of Congolese origin but was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. He was a bit of an unheralded recruit coming out of high school, but showed plenty of promise in his two seasons with the Seminoles.

Much like Pacers center Myles Turner, Kabengele possesses the exact skills that NBA teams covet in modern big men. He's a defensive menace, using his 7-3 wingspan to block 2.8 shots per 40 minutes last season, but also has the ability to stretch the floor offensively, converting 36.9 percent of his 65 3-point attempts as a sophomore.

"For a guy my size, being a power forward/center, I shoot the ball very well," Kabengele said. "I can get to three levels and score. I can make plays off the dribble and in the the post and the mid-post as well as the 3-point line. I just want to showcase my arsenal and just show that I can do a lot on different levels of the floor."

Despite not starting a single game in his two seasons in college, Kabengele showed plenty of flashes of his potential. He had 24 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks in a narrow loss to Duke on Jan. 12, then averaged 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in Florida State's two wins in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament.

Kabengele was named the ACC's Sixth Man of the Year and said on Wednesday he believes his willingness to come off the bench in college should help him with the transition to the next level.

"Everybody has a role," he said. "Not everybody is a superstar when they first come in. So for me to get practice at that in college, fitting into my role and excelling at it, I feel like at the next level I'm going to carry that (over)."

It certainly helps Kabengele to have a famous uncle he can lean on as he prepares to embark on his own NBA career.

"He's been great, especially on the basketball side," Kabengele said of Mutombo. "Just the little details about the floor, spacing, being a better shot-blocker. (And) off the floor as well as far as nutrition, stretching, the day-to-day (things) that NBA pros have to do. He's been enlightening me on that."

Shizz Alston, Ky Bowman, Elijah Thomas

The other participants at Wednesday's workout included Temple guard Shizz Alston (left), Boston College guard Ky Bowman (center), and Clemson forward Elijah Thomas (right). (Photo Credit: @Pacers)

Scoring Guards, Defensive-Minded Big Man Round Out Wednesday's Workout

Wednesday's workout featured four big men and a pair of guards in Temple's Shizz Alston and Boston College's Ky Bowman.

Alston was a three-year starter at Temple, who enjoyed his best season statistically as a senior, increasing his scoring average from 13.3 to 19.7 points per game, his assists from 3.1 to 5.0 per game, and his steals from 0.8 to 1.5 per contest.

The 6-4 guard was the Owls' go-to scorer, scoring 20 or more points in nine straight games to close out his college career. He shot 35 percent from 3-point range on 8.6 attempts per game, but his .908 free throw percentage suggests he could be a more consistent shooter with better shot selection.

Alston's real name is Levan Shawn Alston Jr. "Shizz" is a nickname based on his middle name and bestowed on him by his father, who also starred at Temple and later enjoyed a lengthy professional career overseas. The younger Alston takes great pride in following in his father's footsteps.

"It's amazing," he said. "Just trying to add on to our legacy, try to get somewhere where he didn't have a chance to get to. Hopefully I can get into the NBA."

Bowman, another score-first point guard, turned heads as a sophomore with some great performances, highlighted by a 30-point, 10-rebound, nine-assist performance in a win over then-number one Duke. He declared for the draft last spring and gained valuable feedback from scouts before returning to Boston College for another season.

Scouts wanted to see the 6-1 guard make better decisions off of ball screens and shoot more consistently from the outside. Bowman averaged 19 points, 7.5 rebounds, and 4 assists as a junior while converting 37.4 percent of his shots from 3-point range.

Once a heralded football recruit, who spurned a scholarship offer from Nick Saban and Alabama to pursue his dreams on the basketball court, Bowman's durability and toughness certainly stand out as among his best attributes.

Bowman led the entire NCAA in minutes per game last season, playing a full 40 minutes in 17 contests and 45 minutes in three more games that went to overtime. He also rebounded at a high rate considering his smaller stature.

"I mean, if it's there, I'm going to get it so we can get out on the fastbreak," Bowman said.

Bowman had a number of big games as a junior, highlighted by his performance in an 87-82 win over 11th-ranked Florida State on Jan. 20, when he scored 37 points while going 13-of-18 from the field and 6-of-8 from 3-point range.

Still, he wants to show teams that he has more facets to his game than he showed in college.

"Just showing my decision making, that I'm able to play without the ball, that I'm not just a scorer (and) that I can get other guys open," he said of his goals for the pre-draft process.

The 6-9 Thomas spent three years at Clemson after transferring from Texas A&M. He averaged 13 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks per game as a senior while posting a .612 field goal percentage.

Thomas' calling card is definitely his defense. He credits a sit-down with Clemson coach Brad Brownell after his sophomore season for his emergence as one of the best defenders in the ACC. He earned All-Defensive team accolades in each of his final two seasons with the Tigers.

"That was a big accomplishment for me because in high school I played no defense," he said Wednesday. "So to be able to transform my game defensively and work on my offensive qualities as far as dribbling and getting others involved, I think it's going to prepare me well for the next level."

Offensively, Thomas is a little more limited. He attempted just two 3-pointers in his college career and missed them both, but he was shooting from beyond the arc in drills at the end of Wednesday's workout.

Realistically, Thomas knows he won't ever be a go-to scorer at the next level, but he can still carve out a niche by doing all the little things a coach asks of him.

"Going into the NBA, everybody has a role to play," he said. "I know my role will be a spark off the bench, making sure my teammates are well and playing defense and getting those guys open."

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