Hawks face tall order in Orlando against 6-1 Central Florida
ORLANDO, Florida - When the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (1-8) takes on Central Florida (6-1) Saturday (Nov. 10) at 5 p.m., the Hawks will be facing their biggest challenge of the season — literally.
At and 7-foot-6 and 290-pounds, sophomore center Tacko Fall is the largest player in Division I basketball. The Senegalese national is third on the team with 13.9 points per game and leads the club with 12.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per contest. He ranks second in the country in rebounding and in the top 20 in blocks. Fall’s best game this year came last month against Mississippi State as he netted 20 points and pulled down 13 boards in an 86-61 Knight win.
“You cannot teach size,” Hawks assistant coach Ace Custis said. “He has all the size attributes of a real true center — especially for college basketball and the professional level.”
Custis, who is 6-8, spent some time with the Dallas Mavericks and then played 14 years professionally in the U.S. and overseas after a Hall of Fame career at Virginia Tech.
“One of my former teammates, Shawn Bradley, was 7-6 in Dallas and I recall playing against him in practice and just his size a lone you have to respect. At 7-6, (Fall) will change the game just by being that size because a lot of shots in the paint and around the basket he will alter or block. You can’t get the same shots you normally do.”
A key for the Hawks will be to respect his size, while not getting intimidated.
“You are always going to notice his size no matter who you are on the court and whether you have seen someone his size on the court before,” Custis said. “You will always notice him and be aware of where he is at, but with a guy his size you have to attack his body, get in close to his body and take his length away from him.”
No player on the Shore roster is bigger than Isaac Taylor’s (Wachapreague, Virginia) 6-foot-8, while Derrico Peck (Atlanta, Georgia), Tyler Jones (Atlantic City, New Jersey), Deven Dorsett (Lithonia Georgia) and Bakari Copeland (Decatur, Georgia) are the only other Hawks 6-6 or bigger.
“Our guys I’m sure will be looking at his size early on and it is going to be a factor mentally,” Custis said. “But as the game goes on and they continue to play against him, they’ll relax and get back to normality.”
But as impactful as Fall will be with his size, Custis also pointed out that there are ways to counter it. It will just take execution.
“His size limits what he can do defensively,” Custis said. “You need to put him in situations where you can use his size to your advantage.”
That means among other things setting ball screens where he can’t switch or come out and hedge like a smaller quicker center would be able to should bring the Hawks some success.
But the Knights are not a one-man team. Sophomore point guard B.J Taylor leads the team in scoring (16.3 pg.), assists (5 pg.) and steals (1.4 pg.). Senior shooting guard Matt Williams is second on the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game and has made 23 3-pointers.
Junior shooting guard Ryan Andino (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) has led The Shore in scoring in three straight games. He comes into the battle in his home state averaging a team-high 14.6 points per game, while also shooting 48 percent (38-of-80) from 3-point land.
Copeland is second with 13.4 points per game and leads the team in rebounding at 5.7 per game. Logan McIntosh (Atlanta, Georgia) is third in scoring and leads the team in assists at 4.1 per game.
At 6-1, Central Florida is off to its best start since 2010-11 when it opened up at 14-0. The Knights’ only loss this season came against top-ranked defending national champs Villanova on Nov. 20.
The last matchup between the two squads happened Jan. 12 1987, when the Knights welcomed the Hawks to the old Education Gymnasium and won by a margin of 100-70. UCF had also previously played Eastern Shore at home in January of 1985, winning 70-58, before the series went on a freeze of nearly 30 years.
Games can be heard locally on Fox Sports Radio 960 AM WTGM or on www.EasternShoreHawks.com. Will DeBoer will have the call from Orlando Saturday at 5 p.m. on The Shore Sports Network.
Season tickets for the 2016-2017 season are on sale now starting at just $125, for all men’s and women’s home games. Did you know that a purchasing a season ticket helps all sports at Maryland Eastern Shore, not just basketball? To purchase season tickets, click here. For more information about the 1ticKet Drive, log on to the web at easternshorehawks.com or call 410-651-6499. It’s time to show your #HawkPride!
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