Goodbye in Portugese is: adeus. Sadly that is what Syracuse Orange basketball fans are now saying to seven feet tall Brazilian center Fabricio Del Melo. His up and down, troubled run with the Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim's highly ranked squad is over. Fab Melo was not allowed on the flight to Pittsburgh this afternoon as his teammates of two years headed off to the NCAA tournament with fading hopes for a Final Four bid.
Syracuse University said eligibility issues kept him off the plane and out of the games for the rest of the season. People around the program whispered that Fab Melo was again saddled with academic problems. This one time McDonald's All-American has endured his fair share of problems since his arrival on campus in the late summer of 2010. He struggled with his weight, with learning a sophisticated basketbal system and with studies in English instead of his native language.
He also dealt with homesickness and an angry outburst at a girlfriend that brought him in front of a judge for several court sessions before ultimately being let off the legal hook. This season Melo missed three games of a nearly perfect season for the likes of Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Brandon Triche. Again the whispers said it was an academic issue tracing back to the first semester. It appeared resolved. It appeared from the outside looking in that Melo was out of the eligibility woods.
Suddenly this afternoon the basketball world learned he was not. His taking of an offensive charge, his blocking of a shot and his ferocious slams of a rebounded ball had Syracuse fans jumping for joy this season. His presence filled the otherwise soft center of Jim Boeheim's vaunted 2-3 zone.
What happened here? Is this year where Bernie Fine's dismissal was not enough to disrupt the season on the court it's hard to believe some residual academic issues could not be resolved with the proper oversight and guidance for a multilingual young man bright enough to live a hemisphere away from home. Was the university suddenly concerned about the potential forfeiture of games should a retroactive finding declare Fab Melo ineligible?
Ultimately a student is responsible for his own studies, but where was the vigilance that would have helped Fab Melo overcome the demands of playing Division I basketball while maintaining a minimal academic status? Is it possible it vanished along with the man who accompanied Fab to all of those court apperances... Bernie Fine?
Adeus Fab Melo. Syracuse wishes you well.
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