Pape Mor Sall isn’t easily missed. With his 7-foot stature and smiling face, he is often seen going to class or getting lunch in the cafeteria.
Mor Sall, a freshman on the men’s basketball team, found his way out of his native country of Senegal when a man from France saw him play basketball and asked him if he wanted to play basketball in the United States.
Mor Sall arrived in Florida, where he stayed for a couple months. He spoke mostly French, so he had to begin learning English. After attending high school briefly in Florida, Mor Sall moved to Winchester, Va., where he played basketball at Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy in Stephens City from 2011 to 2012. His team went 40-15 and he nearly averaged a triple-double with 7.3 points, 10.3 rebounds and 10 blocks per game. That year Mor Sall was named National Association of Christian Athletes Defensive MVP.
Mor Sall signed with UVa- Wise in the spring of 2012.
UVa-Wise Assistant Coach Blake Mellinger received a phone call from the assistant coach at Mor Sall’s high school and told Mellinger that he might be interested in Mor Sall.
After Mor Sall’s high school season was over, the Cavs brought him to play with the team and he impressed the coaches enough to earn himself a scholarship to continue his basketball career.
“We liked his size,” Mellinger said. “In our league, or any league, size is crucial.”
Making the jump to college basketball hasn’t been easy for the 205-pound center, who has to regularly go up against players who have 50 to 60 pounds on him.
“It’s very physical,” Mor Sall said. “I am trying to gain muscle.”
This season is only Mor Sall’s fifth year of playing basketball. He mainly played soccer before picking up the sport that brought him to the U.S., but Head Coach Lee Clark said that he has good foundational skills.
“He runs the floor well and has good timing on his blocks,” Clark said. “He’s got a great upside.”
Mor Sall has enjoyed his time in Wise so far, he said.
“I like going to school and playing ball,” he said. “I have made some new friends.”
Mor Sall hasn’t always been the tallest one playing basketball. His brother is 6 feet 10 inches tall and Mor Sall said he had played against other 7-footers in Senegal.
Both of his parents died of an illness when he was younger — his dad when he was 10 and his mom when he was 15.
But he has two older brothers and two sisters in Senegal, and being so far away from his family has been tough for Mor Sall. He calls them when he has access to a credit card and sometimes gets to see them via Skype.
“I miss them a lot,” he said.
Despite the distance from his home, Mor Sall can often be seen smiling no matter what is happening.
“I am born like that,” he said. “I like to smile.”
Mor Sall could be possibly the first 7-foot tall man for the Cavs men’s program, and has used his height to his advantage in front of the basket.
When asked if there have been other players that tall, Coach Clark laughed.
“[Not] unless we stack two guards together,” he said.