Celtics rookie Tacko Fall appeared on "60 Minutes” Sunday night to discuss his experience being recruited out of Africa at the age of 16, and the shady world of human trafficking designed to bring young basketball players to America.
Fall’s path eventually worked out despite a few hiccups with his visa, but for many other teenagers, they become ensnared in a world of middlemen who are looking to prey on teenagers and hoping to hit it big in the NBA.
Fall, at 7 feet 5 inches, who was born and raised in Senegal, immigrated to the United States from Dakar. He said the men who brokered his agreement to come to the United States "tried” to do right by him, despite the fact there were issues with his I-20 student visa along the way, which left his playing status in jeopardy at one point.
"For some reason, there was an issue with the school I was going to go to,” he recalled. "If you don’t go to the school you were supposed to go to, that school can cancel your [student visa]. Once they cancel your I-20, then you are here illegally.”
Those issues were smoothed over, and Fall ended up at the Liberty Christian Preparatory School in Tavares, Fla., before going on to attend the University of Central Florida. Fall, who has split his time this season with the Celtics and the Maine Red Claws of the NBA’s G League, acknowledges he’s one of the lucky ones.
"There’s been many times where I feel like some people have been taken advantage of where they bring them here, then that’s it,” he said. "Then they’re just left for their own. And if things don’t work out, then they are pretty much screwed.”
Fall, 24, also would like to give back, offering to return to Africa — as he did last year — to help counsel teenagers who were in his situation a few years ago. What would he tell a young basketball player tempted by a scenario that might be too good to be true?
"It’s hard. It’s hard to do,” he said of making the right decision. "Especially when you’re back home and people come and sell you a dream. It’s hard to turn it down.”
Christopher Price can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at cpriceglobe.