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NCAA Doing NCAA Things...Refuses To Clear 7'6" Viral Superstar Tacko Fall To Play For UCF

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Fox SportsThe tallest player in college basketball, 7-foot-6 University of Central Florida freshman Tacko Fall, is not yet cleared by the NCAA, and the news has left the young man from Senegal confused, angry and determined to fight.

The news that Fall is not yet cleared, first reported Tuesday by ESPN, is despite the fact that Fall, a 19-year-old engineering student who had a 3.6 grade-point average in high school and is excelling so far in college, endured a harrowing journey from his home country to the United States.

Since last Friday, he hasn’t been allowed to practice with his team. His eligibility for this week’s season opener – as well as next week’s matchup with the only other 7-foot-6 player in college hoops, Mamadou N’Diaye, a Senegalese player for UC-Irvine – not to mention Fall’s entire season, appears up in the air.

All of this serves as yet another example of how the NCAA continues to fall short of its stated philosophy of putting student-athletes first and treating each eligibility case as unique.

“We’ve reached a pretty desperate point with the NCAA,” said Mandy Wettstein, an Orlando woman who, along with her husband and two daughters, became the host family and guardian for Fall two years ago. Fall was brought to the United States at age 15 by a handler, and he ended up spending time in six states before finally finding a home with Wettstein’s family.

“We’ve always been told they take into account the extenuating circumstances surrounding a kid. But they’re not,” Wettstein said.

An NCAA spokesman declined to comment.

If student protests weren’t enough to rile you up…how about a good old fashioned Fuck the NCAA story? How’s everybody feel about that? Just trying to keep you on your toes for what you should be pissed off about at any given moment of the day. Wish we had some sort of universal blood pressure monitor that could upload through your computer and get compiled in a chart on the blog, Barstool readers this week would most likely smash all sorts of AMA records.

Anyway…let’s check out what’s going on with Tacko!

You remember him right? 7’6″ kid, viral superstar, signed with UCF…we’ve posted a bunch of his hype videos.

Great kid, does well in the interviews I’ve watched: well-spoken, very smart.

Well here’s his story – a little long, but worth reading, just so you can see what we’re dealing with here.

Here are the extenuating circumstances, according to a five-page letter Fall wrote to the NCAA to appeal his eligibility ruling: Fall grew up poor even by Senegalese standards, sleeping on a mat in a one-bedroom apartment in Dakar with his mother and younger brother. He wrote of eating one meal a day growing up, rice and vegetables. He wore taped-together sandals. He had no extras in life. He played soccer – never basketball – but since there are no athletic scholarships in Senegal, he focused more on his studies.

His mother owned a clothing store but had to shutter it after a dispute with her business partner.

“We had some very dark days that I do not like to remember or think about, but our faith was strong,” Fall wrote. “It was around that time that I went to a public park with some friends and we were playing around on the basketball court. I had never played before. A few days later, I went back to the park and was approached by a man who asked if I was interested in learning to play basketball. I told him he needed to speak with my mother.”

He joined a Senegalese basketball academy and soon enough found himself on an airplane for the first time in his life, headed to Texas. A man who engineered Fall’s journey to the United States – Wettstein ask that he not be named, per Fall’s wishes – placed Fall in an apartment with another Senegalese basketball player. Although the man promised the two boys would go to school immediately, they didn’t. Instead they stayed isolated in the apartment. After a few weeks, the man, who was Fall’s original host parent, enrolled Fall in a charter school in Houston.

It was not a good school, Fall wrote in his statement, with gangs and violence, but the boys stayed enrolled there for the 2012-13 school year. The man then shopped the boys to three other schools and had them play for his summer league team. The schools did not accept them because of issues with the boys’ I-20 visas, paperwork needed for immigrants to attend American schools.

Fall finally found his way to Liberty Christian Prep in Florida, a school that promised to work through his visa issues and helped hook him up with his host family, Mandy Wettstein and her husband, Davis Talmage.

“Tacko’s journey is really unique,” Wettstein said. “It’s insane to us, beyond all comprehension, that the NCAA is about to do this to this kid.”

The NCAA has a role here, and an important one. Students with sham academic records ought to be put under scrutiny. That is part of the integrity of the scholar-athlete system. But this instance is different. A peek at Fall’s high school transcript shows he’s a high-achieving student. This is a kid who has faced countless obstacles just to make it to the United States – and now he’s being put through an unnecessary bureaucratic ringer. This is a basketball player with an enormous amount of potential who in theory is the NCAA poster boy: a possibly elite basketball player who merely wants to use basketball to get an education, something he couldn’t get back home.

He is the definition of a scholar-athlete. [Fox Sports]

A kid growing up dirt poor in Senegal sleeping on a mat and wearing taped together sandals making a long ass journey to the United States where he earned a 3.6 high school GPA and became an ENGINEERING student as soon as he got to UCF. Na, probably just trying to scam his way in – couldn’t possibly look at that case in a different light. Better off to just lump it in with the rock solid guidelines. Doesn’t matter if we see time and time and time and time and time and time again that the way the NCAA operates is inconsistent, almost always ridiculously dumb, and sometimes even corrupt

…Gotta follow the rules. If we allow Tacko to play where does it end, does every dirt poor immigrant pursuing the literal definition of the American Dream and excelling at it get to just enroll in college and play basketball?


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