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Big Senegal prospect impresses Jazz with energetic performance

Deseret News Archives

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Jazz love what DeSagana Diop brings to the team as a 7-foot assistant coach who can relate and help big men after toiling in the NBA from 2001-13.

On Wednesday, the big man helped out in another way.

Diop acted as a translator for Youssoupha Fall, a 7-foot-4 center who also hails from Dakar, Senegal. French is one of five languages the Jazz assistant speaks, so that came in handy with another Senegalian in the building.

Though the raw Fall is a long shot to be drafted on June 22, his size makes him an intriguing prospect for this level of basketball.

“He’s a high-energy guy for his size,” Jazz vice president of player personnel Walt Perrin said after Wednesday’s predraft workout. “He plays hard.”

Fall played in France the past two seasons, averaging 10.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks for Poitiers Basket 86 of the French LNB Pro B League.

Fall used to play soccer when he was a kid, but he said that a lot of basketball is played in Senegal. He started playing at an early age but then heeded his father’s advice and took time off to focus on his schoolwork.

Eventually, Fall returned to the court and then moved to France in 2013 to play at a higher level. International scouts have kept their eye on the enormous young man since then.

Diop isn’t friends with Fall, who’s 13 years younger, but they met when the assistant coach was playing for Dallas in the NBA about six years ago. Diop said that’s also when he met French center Rudy Gobert, who was trying to improve his draft potential by working out in the U.S.

Fall has already worked out for the Clippers and has about six more tryouts scheduled over the course of the next couple of weeks.

The 22-year-old would certainly be a project player — and intends on returning to play in France if not drafted — but he said through Diop that he’s dreaming of working his way into the top basketball league in the world.

“It’s my goal to play in the NBA,” Fall said.

That’s likely years away, but you never know. As Frank Layden used to say, you can’t teach height and Fall has plenty of that.

“We’d probably like to see him rebound a little bit more for the position he’s going to have to play,” said Perrin, who added that he’d like to see Fall pack on some muscle, too, so he can hold his position down low. “I think he can guard pretty well. He’s an interesting guy.”

The Jazz have now worked out 48 different prospects at their practice facility in the last month as they prepare for the upcoming draft. Others at Wednesday's workout included SMU wing Semi Ojeleye, a possible late first-rounder, Croatia wing Leo Cizmic, Middle Tennessee big JaCorey Williams, Arizona State big Obinna Oleka and Arizona big Chance Comanche.