Fab Melo, former Syracuse and Celtics big man, dies at 26

Melo had a brief but interesting college career, and he’d returned to his native Brazil after a short NBA run.

Former Syracuse and Celtics center Fab Melo is dead at 26. He died in his native Brazil, according to multiple reports on Saturday.

Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim spoke with Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

"He was a really good kid, and it's not fair that he will be defined by one thing, a 10-page paper," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told ESPN shortly after hearing Melo had died at his mother's house. "He worked his tail off to become a really good player, and was a nice kid."

"We don't know the cause yet," added a shaken Boeheim. "It's so hard right now, so hard to believe. It's a sad, sad day."

Melo was a key player on the Syracuse team that finished the 2011-12 season ranked No. 2 in the country. But Melo was declared academically ineligible for that year’s NCAA Tournament, in which Syracuse suffered an Elite Eight loss to Ohio State.

After some draft night trade maneuvering, the Celtics picked Melo No. 22 overall in that year’s NBA Draft. But he only appeared in six NBA games that year and never made it back onto an NBA court. He spent some time in the D-League and on the fringes of rosters but never played another NBA minute.

Melo was a five-star recruit in the class of 2010, and Boeheim wooed him to Syracuse despite scholarship offers from Kansas, Florida, Connecticut, and others.

Melo signed with Brazilian Club Athletico Paulistano for the 2014-15 season, and he was recently playing for Brasília. He’s left the world way too soon.