Three minutes and 35 seconds into last Sunday’s NCAA tournament showdown between Central Florida’s Tacko Fall and Duke star Zion Williamson, it happened.
Williamson gathered a rebound, pivoted and launched toward the rim with bad intentions. But unlike in his usual highlight-reel finishes, this time the projected No. 1 overall pick was greeted by Fall, UCF’s 7-foot-6 big man.
Nyquel Alexander was sitting at the bar inside the Postcard Inn in St. Pete Beach, Fla., where he works as a security guard, bracing himself for this inevitable moment. The moment when Tacko Fall would be involved in a major play on a nationally televised game. The moment when someone would resurface the infamous 2015 video clip of Alexander defending Fall during a high school basketball game. The moment he would go viral again.
Had someone told Alexander four years ago that he’d be the star of a viral video clip with the future Central Florida center, he’d have envisioned himself swatting Fall’s shot into the hallway of Lakewood High School, where Alexander played, or perhaps throwing down a poster-worthy dunk.
Life had other plans.
Instead, the then-6-foot-6, 420-pound Alexander became famous because of the look on his face: An understandably bewildered expression, showing one large human contemplating just how to defend a 7-foot-6 opponent.
“It’s crazy, the next day I was in class chilling and my friends was like,’ Bro, you famous,’ and then they showed me the Vine,” Alexander said in a telephone interview this week. “I was mad 'cause of the comments about me being big and playing the wrong sport, but then my followers started going up on all my social media, so I just accepted all of it and laughed.”
The clip has found its way to Alexander’s Twitter feed numerous times over the past few years, but never as often as last weekend. Alexander swears he wasn’t trying to become a video star or garner attention with the faces he made throughout that long-ago game, pitting his Lakewood team against Fall’s Liberty Christian Prep. The cameras just happened to catch him in several raw moments, displaying his inner thoughts.
“I was just like, ‘Yo, this dude really 7-6!’ I’ve never played against a 7-footer, so this crazy,” Alexander explained. “One part of the video, he tried to, like, bump and move me and everybody knew that wasn’t happening, so I sat there and looked up like, really?”
That night, Fall turned in a 17-point, 10-block performance, adding six rebounds and three assists. His team won, 78-70. But Alexander still claims that he won the individual battle, thanks to a determined approach on defense.
“Man, to tell you the truth, I was just trying to keep him away from the post as much as I can,” Alexander said. “I know I got five fouls so I was going to use them at all cost.”
“Just know I made sure he didn’t score on me or dunk on me,” Alexander said. “I didn’t really care about stats; I just came off the bench and played my role.”
The seven-second video has been viewed more than 2 million times; users still use it to convey an array of emotions on several social-media platforms. A longer clip on YouTube has hundreds of thousands of views.
Despite the video’s popularity, its stars have yet to formally meet and have never discussed their shared viral fame. If the opportunity presented itself, Alexander said, he would tell Fall that he still roots for him and wishes him nothing but the best.
“He’s definitely gotten better since we were in high school, I can tell you that for sure,” Alexander said. “I hope he continues to get more aggressive, 'cause when he do, he can’t be stopped.”
Alexander went on to play football for Merced, a California junior college, and for Arkansas-Pine Bluff, an FCS program. After taking this year off, Alexander said he plans to spend his final year of eligibility at the NAIA level, playing for Edward Waters College in Jacksonville.
Even though Alexander spent a year as a starting offensive lineman for a Division I football program, he remains better known for his role in a seven-second high school basketball clip. Which, he said, is just fine.
“In life, you have to make what God gave you a blessing,” Alexander said. “When people ask about the video, I just laugh and say, ‘High school was lit.’”
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