SAO PAULO — Former Syracuse University and Boston Celtics center Fab Melo has died in his native Brazil, military police said Sunday. He was 26.
An emergency call Saturday night brought police and paramedics to Melo’s house in Juiz de Fora, in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais, according to a police sergeant who gave his name only as Couto. Couto said that when the police arrived, paramedics said Melo was dead, with no signs of violence.
“We don’t know the cause yet. It’s so hard right now, so hard to believe,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim told ESPN.
The 7-foot Melo was a star at Syracuse and was named Big East defensive player of the year as a sophomore. But he also had academic issues that forced him to miss the 2012 NCAA Tournament after being declared ineligible.
“He was a really good kid, and it’s not fair that he will be defined by one thing: a 10-page paper,” Boeheim told ESPN. “He worked his tail off to become a really good player and was a nice kid.”
Melo was a first-round draft pick in 2012 by the Boston Celtics. At the time, Boston’s assistant general manager, Ryan McDonough, marveled at how quickly Melo was picking up the game after just a few years of playing it. McDonough said Melo grew up playing soccer in Brazil, where that sport is national obsession.
But Melo played only six games for the Celtics, spending most of the season with Maine in the NBA Development League.
“I’m so saddened to hear of the passing of Fab Melo,” Celtics general manager Danny Ainge wrote on Twitter . “He was a good kid with a big heart. Our prayers go out to all of his loved ones.”
In August 2013, Melo was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies, who waived him two weeks later. He then signed with the Dallas Mavericks but was waived shortly after.