7-foot-5-inch teen shooting for NBA … or biochemistry

Sixteen-year old Elhadji Tacko Fall, also known as "Taco," stands 7 feet 5 inches tall, 4 inches taller than Shaquille O'Neal. (CNN/WTSP)
Sixteen-year old Elhadji Tacko Fall, also known as "Taco," stands 7 feet 5 inches tall, 4 inches taller than Shaquille O'Neal. (CNN/WTSP)

TAVARES, Fla. (CNN/WTSP) — In the little Lake County town of Tavares resides the tallest high school basketball player in the country.

Elhadji Tacko Fall, 16, is anything but a uniform student at Liberty Christian Preparatory School. The 7-foot-5-inch-tall junior strolls the halls a yard above his fellow schoolmates.

The iPad he totes from classroom to classroom looks like an iPhone in his nearly foot-long hands.

Affectionately known at school as “Taco,” his fellow students have to look up to smile “hello,” while looking out for his size 22 shoe.

A native of Dakar, Senegal, Fall came to the United States to learn the game of basketball, while trying to take advantage of his gifted traits.

“I haven’t been playing basketball that long,” said Fall. “When I first got here, it was very fast. Now, it is just a game.”

Fall just started playing the game six months before he came to the United States in 2012.

It’s a game he’s looking to excel at, like he does in the classroom. While the school doesn’t have a desk big enough to fit “Taco,” he’s managed just fine — maintaining a 4.0 grade point average.

Fall is excelling at chemistry and math, and he also speaks four languages. Asked if he’d like to keep playing basketball, Fall said, “Yes, hopefully, yeah. If I don’t, I want to be a biochemist.”

“I could do better if I really applied myself,” said Fall. “The academics are much more difficult in Senegal.”

But difficulty is a situation Fall was familiar with during his time in his native country. His goal is a familiar one in the U.S.

“I, hopefully, will be able to make it one day playing basketball and earn enough money to take care of my mother and brother to have a stable environment,” said Fall.

Fall is still trying to stabilize his own situation on the court, just a year-and-a-half into learning the game.

“I’m much better than where I started, and I’m hearing from a lot of Division 1 colleges,” said Fall.

While the goal is to join the ranks of Yao Ming and Manute Bol as 7-foot immigrants to capture NBA glory, Fall admits he’d be perfectly happy as a biochemist, too.

Already taller than any player in the league, the sky appears to be the limit for this young man — who can nearly touch the clouds.

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