Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician is putting a bow on the 2011-12 Syracuse Orange basketball season by recapping how each scholarship player performed and looking forward to what lies ahead in 2012-13. In honor of their status as student-athletes (insert Fab Melo joke here) we will score each player’s performance on an A-F scale, and offer some suggestions on what they can work on in the offseason (a.k.a. "summer school").
What’s left to say about Fab Melo that hasn’t been said already? The Big East Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, Melo’s progression from his freshman to sophomore seasons leaves me wondering how he didn’t win the Most Improved Player award as well. His oft-discussed offseason weight loss led to an increase in stamina and footspeed, helping him lead the team in blocked shots, rebounds, and charges drawn in 2011-12. He was an intimidating force in the middle of the Orange’s 2-3 zone, perhaps one of the top shotblockers in all of college basketball, and on the other end of the court showed an inconsistent but improving offensive game built around finishing lobs at the rim and even stepping outside for the occasional jump shot. More on that later.
Record-setting night for Fab Melo leads SU over Seton Hall | CitrusTV Sports (via CitrusTV)
It’s hard to discuss Fab’s season without mentioning his struggle to stay in uniform. On two separate occasions Melo was declared ineligible, once at midseason and again for the NCAA Tournament. Syracuse was generally successful in his absence, but eventually were exposed when facing teams which boasted competent (or better) frontcourt players like Jack Cooley of Notre Dame, Yancy Gates of Cincinnati, and most prominently Jared Sullinger of Ohio State. While Fab may not have single-handedly won any of those games for SU, his considerable physical presence certainly would have helped in matchups with those college hoops heavyweights.
As mentioned above, Melo’s on court improvement this season was impressive, but he was not without flaws. His post-up game is virtually non-existent, and on the off chance he was able to make a move it was typically slow and mechanical. He did show the ability to occasionally stick a 15 foot jumper, but anyone who watched the UConn game in the Big East Tournament knows his shot selection left a little to be desired. His increased shotblocking prowess was notable, but so was his knack for goaltending, which by the end of the season had turned into a bit of an in-joke among fans.
On Thursday afternoon Fab announced he is turning pro, ending his career at Syracuse after two seasons. This was not an unexpected move given the eligibility issues Melo faced this season, but I think it’s a shame. Fab’s physical stature and defensive skills lead many draft reports to declare that he’ll be a late first round pick, which means he’ll go to a good team with established players blocking him from meaningful minutes. Another year of college could have done him and SU a world of good, especially if he once again improved at the same rate from year to year. I hope for his sake that he is drafted by an NBA team with a veteran post presence (like perhaps the Lakers, Spurs, Magic, or Celtics) who can show him the ropes and help him refine his offensive game. Otherwise, what the man really needs is experience, and hopefully he can get enough in summer leagues or training camp before likely finding himself on the bench of a quality NBA squad next year.
Final Grade: B- (loses credit for too many absences)