#1 cheaper than the league average.ddd von mary123 06.09.2019 08:42

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A year ago, the reflection Tacko Fall was seeing wasnt the image everyone else saw in UCFs raw but intriguing 7-foot-6 freshman center.Fast forward to this season, and there is a new coaching staff, a new energy around the Knights program and definitely a different Fall. The shy, towering young man is getting more comfortable on the basketball court.I can definitely be a force in the paint, the engineering major from Senegal told The Associated Press. I feel like there is really nobody who can guard me in the paint.Nobody? A bold statement, though Fall has had an impressive start to the season and turned heads during last weekends Charleston Classic.For the first time this season, the nation got a chance to see how much the goggle-wearing big man has improved. Fall dominated against the likes of Mississippi State and defending national champion and third-ranked Villanova. He averaged a double-double over the three-game tournament, including a 20-point, 13-rebound showing in a 67-57 loss to the Wildcats in the championship game.He caught the eye of ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, who mentioned Fall on his Twitter page.I see it but I cant let it go to my head, said Fall, who was named the American Athletic Conference player of the week on Monday after averaging 17.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and three blocked shots in the first four games this season. I still have a lot to work on. I can get a lot better.The attention and accolades Fall is receiving are a far cry from what life was like five years ago when he and a friend, Ange Badji, were spotted by a man named Ben Simmons in their native home of Dakar, Senegal.Simmons, who did not return phone calls from the AP, helped Fall and Badji get visas to the United States.Fall was coming from a poor background, living with his mother and little brother in a one-bedroom apartment where the basic necessities were hard to come by -- including going to school.Fall, who was 7-foot-3 and 16 years old at the time, said his mother -- who only speaks French and has never seen him play -- was promised that he would be taught the game of basketball, have a chance to earn a quality education and possibly a college degree. But it didnt happen that way when Fall and Badji initially landed in the U.S. in October 2012.For the better part of a year, Fall and Badji bounced around Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Kansas and Illinois in search of charter schools.Finally, in September 2013, they landed in Tavares, Florida, and on the doorsteps of Liberty Christian Preparatory School basically homeless. But that is when life began to change for the better.Amanda Wettstein and her family took Fall and Badji into their home.There were some negative things and there were some positive things because when I came to Florida I met great people, my host family, said Fall, a native French speaker who learned English quickly. They are still there and are basically part of my family now. We talk every day. They live 45 minutes away from here. They treat me like Im their own child.Wettstein and her husband took the boys in not knowing much more than their first names and that they were in need.Neither the school or us had information about them, said Wettstein, whose mother-in-law is a counselor at Liberty Christian. At the time we didnt know anything about their journey, just that they had been in Tennessee and were homeless and needed a place.The 6-foot-5 Badji is currently attending TNG Prep Academy in Tennessee.As for Fall, it wasnt long before it was apparent that he was more than just a tall kid with basketball potential. He was also extremely bright.After scoring in the 90th percentile the first time he took the SAT, Fall spent his junior and senior years playing at Liberty Christian.He played AAU hoops in 2014, and had great success. He was invited to the NBA Top 100 and Nike Skills Academy, after which the college opportunities came pouring in. Georgetown, Harvard, Xavier and Wake Forest were among the 36 offers he received, but UCF and former head coach Donnie Jones won out.The Knights had something others didnt: a location that allowed Fall, who was tired of moving, to stay close to those he was familiar with and who he felt cared about him.After finally getting cleared to play by the NCAA just before last season, Fall was a raw freshman who showed ability as a shot blocker and post defender.This year, with former Stanford coach and Duke All-American Johnny Dawkins at the helm at UCF, Fall has continued to improve. Dawkins and his staff have worked with Fall since arriving, improving his offensive game, his strength and post presence.Dawkins said that because of how well Fall runs the floor, his touch around the basket and shot-blocking ability, the only limit to his upside is his imagination and how hard he works.I tell Tacko all the time: `Tacko you can change the game. You can revolutionize our game at your size, said Dawkins, whose team is off to a 4-1 start. With that (size) and the ability to move up and down like he does on the floor, his mobility, he could revolutionize our game.The NBA is the logical next step for Fall, though its unclear when he might make that jump. However, with Dawkins mentoring him and Falls size and athletic ability, he will get a look by someone.Fall believes he is up for the challenge, and after what he has been through, no one is counting him out.The ultimate goal for me is to play in the NBA, Fall said confidently, because I think its going to open so many doors for me to be able to take care of my family, help people back home and give opportunities to people back home like I was given the opportunity to help others.---More AP college basketball at http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Top25 Darlington Nagbe USA Jersey . 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"It just felt like it was my time to move on," she said in a phone interview from her hometown of Burlington, Ont. This story is part of ESPN The Magazines Oct. 31 NBA Preview Issue. Subscribe today!Toronto RaptorsOverall: 52 Title track: 97 Ownership: 50 Coaching: 52 Players: 33 Fan relations: 37 Affordability: 104 Stadium experience: 44 Bang for the buck: 26 Change from last year: +42The Raptors are coming off their finest season in franchise history. They won a franchise-record 56 games during the regular season, advanced past the first round for the first time in 15 years and reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time ever. What do they do for an encore? Jump another 42 spots in these standings -- and reach the top half for the first time since 2008.Whats goodThe Raptors arent planning to let go of this recent success. Over the summer, president Masai Ujiri and coach Dwane Casey received contract extensions, which should stabilize the franchise for years to come. Raptors lifer DeMar DeRozan agreed to stay in Toronto with a five-year deal of his own, which likely played a huge part in the rosters impressive, 66-spot jump in these standings (now 33rd overall and eighth in the NBA in players). Also, the Toronto fan base is as good as it gets. Air Canada Centre (ranked 44th in stadium experience) is always sold out, and the crowds in Jurassic Park outside the arena grow with each playoff win.Whats badA 104th-place rankiing in affordability is surprising, as Toronto tickets are actually $7 cheaper than the league average.ddddddddddddPerhaps Raptors fans are taking their title frustrations out on the pricing: At 97th, title track is the teams other worst showing. Assuming they can replicate what they did in 2015-16, the Raptors still have a problem: LeBron James, whose team has advanced to six consecutive NBA finals and knocked Toronto out in the Eastern Conference finals last season. The bar has been raised, but the Raptors can do everything right as a franchise, and theyll still be the underdogs. It will be difficult to get over the hump as long as James is healthy and dominating on the court.Whats newIn five years in Toronto, Dwane Casey has helped his team increase its win total every year since he arrived, leading to 2015-16s 56-win season. Casey has clearly convinced the fans, who bumped him up 60 spots this season to 52nd overall. Now the Raptors are hoping a former Casey assistant -- and two-time NBA All-Star -- can do the same with Torontos D-League team, Raptors 905. Jerry Stackhouse will coach the squad, based out of nearby Mississauga, Ontario, in its second season.Next: Miami Heat?| Full rankings ' ' '

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