One of the biggest attractions (literally) in the American Athletic Conference is 7-foot-6 Central Florida junior center Tacko Fall.
Last season, Fall was among the most improved players in all of college basketball while earning AAC defensive player of the year honors. He averaged 10.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots in 26.3 minutes per game.
As a freshman, he averaged 7.4 points, 5.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocked shots in just 17.6 minutes per game.
Fall, who hails from Dakar, Senegal, improved his stamina, enabling him to play the extra minutes.
He didn't begin playing organized basketball until his junior year of high school at Florida's Liberty Christian Prep, so his better days appear clearly ahead.
"He worked so hard between his freshman and sophomore year and even harder this past offseason," said UCF coach and former Sixers guard Johnny Dawkins.
Dawkins believes Fall has NBA potential.
"I know the game is changing and more teams are playing small, but he has the ability to play in the NBA, especially with the way he plays defense," Dawkins said.
Fall said it isn't hard to keep the NBA on the back burner and concentrate on the season for a UCF team that was an NIT semifinalist last year and has NCAA aspirations this season.
"You have got to take things step by step and you have to make sure when you get there, you are ready," Fall said. "It is a life-changing decision and I am trying to work hard and take it day by day and trying to do great things."
Preseason AAC player of the year Shake Milton of SMU, heads up the all-conference preseason teams. There were no Temple players on either of the two teams.
Shake Milton, 6-6, Jr., G, SMU
Jalen Adams, 6-3, Jr., G, Connecticut
Rob Gray, 6-1, R-Sr., G Houston
Landry Shamet, 6-4, R-So., G, Wichita State
B.J. Taylor, 6-2, R-Jr., G, Central Florida
Gary Clark, 6-8, Sr., F, Cincinnati
Junior Etou, 6-8, R-Sr., F, Tulsa
Jacob Evans 6-6, Jr., G-F, Cincinnati
Tacko Fall, 7-6, Jr., C, Central Florida
Kyle Washington, 6-9, Sr., F, Cincinnati
Connecticut coach Kevin Ollie has eight new players, four freshmen, two junior college transfers, and two graduate transfers in hopes of improving from last season.
Also new is a three-year series with former Big East foe Villanova. The teams will play Jan. 20 this season in Hartford, next year at Madison Square Garden, and the following season in Philadelphia.
"It will be a great challenge," Ollie said. "Renewing an old Big East battle will be great."