Syracuse Orange: Fab Melo deserves to be recognized for positives

In the tragedy surrounding former Syracuse Orange men’s basketball center Fab Melo, he deserves so much more than emphasis on his struggles.

Former Syracuse Orange men’s basketball star Fabricio de Melo gave his entire heart to Orange Nation during his years in college basketball. Ultimately, that same heart might be what ended his life far too soon.

Reported by Brazilian news organization globo esporte on Saturday evening, Fab Melo was found dead in his childhood home in Juiz de Fora, Brazil. He was only 26 years old.

With Melo’s passing, fans and reporters are bringing to light his struggles and transgressions more so than what is really important: the fact that he worked hard and ultimately overcame adversity to make it in America.

It’s so easy to define Melo by what happened to him in Syracuse. Accusations surrounding his intelligence levels at SU took precedence over the game and he played and the effort he put forth. Deemed ineligible twice in his two-year career at Syracuse, people often put that above the outstanding accolades he earned during his time in college.

He was the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2012. He led the 2011-2012 team in rebounds per game (5.8) and blocks per game (2.9). He helped carry that same team to a 34-3 season overall record, prior to the NCAA vacating those victories.

Not only was it impressive what he did for the program, it was more impressive to see him succeed after coming from absolutely nothing. He earned every start that he got at Syracuse and deserves every ounce of respect within that successful program.

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Head coach Jim Boeheim expressed his frustration to ESPN that, “it’s not fair that he will be defined by one thing: a ten-page paper.” As much as America tends to disagree with Boeheim, he is absolutely correct.

Day in and day out, Melo faced extremely high expectations from the hype surrounding his arrival. After coming to the United States in 2008, Melo still struggled to properly grasp the English language. Not only was he learning to become a more dominant player, he was learning how to communicate with his coaches, teammates and professors alike.

Fans tend to place blame on the NCAA sanctions handed to Syracuse on Melo’s academic violations. As a player working to succeed in the strict world of college basketball with his own personal limitations, things get tough. And while Melo probably didn’t handle it properly, he still earns credit for hard work and dedication to the sport.

Former teammates have spoken to the media to address the character of Melo, all of which undisputedly praise the talent, joy and brotherhood Melo brought to their own team. For someone who passed away so suddenly and so young, that is possibly the most important to remember about him.

It wasn’t about Melo. It was about making and maintaining a winning program and that’s exactly what Melo did for Syracuse. Maybe his years in Syracuse didn’t result in an NCAA Tournament Championship, however, they did help revitalize the impressive 2-3 zone defense.

Melo played two years in college but never made a name for himself in the NBA. He never won the big trophy or the big ring and that tends to make others discredit his value to the game.
But he did so much more. He made everyone realize that there is a way for a poor, talented athlete to make it in America without ever necessarily winning the big one.

Whatever happened to him off the court, he deserves to be recognized for all the heart he showed during his time on it. Thank you, Fab Melo, and may you rest in peace.

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Allison is just a girl with an enormous passion for the game of baseball and the written word. Based in Upstate New York, her life-long relationship with the New York Yankees is something that she developed through close relationships with her mother and grandfather. An aspiring sports writer, she graduated with a journalism degree and is finding places to share her excitement about the sporting world and how it affects us all.