Dion Waiters scored 29 points and drained a 30-plus foot 3-pointer with 12.2 seconds to play to help the Miami Heat seal an impressive 106-98 win against the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers on the road.
Waiters seemed motivated to punish his former team and scored 24 in the first half.
The Heat have won 19 of 23, including victories over Golden State, Houston and two over the Cavs.
With all the recent success of the team, Waiters shared with me he is still in shock by the death of his former Syracuse Orange teammate moreover roommate Fabricio Paulino de Melo or Fab Melo.
Melo, the former Syracuse 7-footer and Boston Celtics first-round pick, died in his home country of Brazil last month.
Melo went to bed and was found dead at his home by his mother in Juiz de Fora, in the state of Minas Gerais, Military Police in Brazil confirmed.
He died of natural causes, the medical legal institute of Juiz de Fora in Brazil confirmed.
Melo, 26, was playing professionally in Brazil, as he had been the past few years.
“He was a great person. I am still in shock. It still has not hit me yet. Because I still cannot believe it. I try not to think about it,’’ Waiters stated.
Melo had come to the United States without any parents—and without knowing much English—at the behest of some coaches and agent-like figures from Brazil. They believed the NBA was part of his future, even though he had only been playing basketball for a few years. A heart attack had killed his father when Melo was just a boy, and Melo’s mother wanted her son to receive an education in the U.S. and to be able to continue playing basketball, too.
As a sophomore in 2011-12, he morphed into the beast the Orange hoped they had recruited. He averaged 7.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game, but his presence on the floor outshone his numbers. He was a defensive force, a house in the middle of head coach Jim Boeheim’s stifling zone defense.
The NCAA’s investigation of Syracuse’s academic program included the legitimacy of a paper that Melo wrote while at school. The NCAA suspended Boeheim for nine games and imposed harsh sanctions to Syracuse as a result of that investigation.
Melo spent two seasons playing for Boeheim at Syracuse and was part of the Orange team that went 34-3 and 17-1 in the Big East in the 2011-12 season. All of those wins were later vacated.
“That was my roommate when we first moved up to Syracuse my freshman year and the entire summer and my teammate for two years. We became closer,” Waiters stated. “He was a brother. It is sad. You don’t know what a person is going through. We lost connection when he traveled back home to Brazil.”
Melo was suspended twice during the 2011-12 season — once for three games during the regular season and again for the NCAA Tournament due to academics. Melo’s academic eligibility was also part of the NCAA investigation in which the Syracuse program self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2014-15 season.
“Fab returned his sophomore year a complete different player. He was dominant. We played zone however we had the big fella in the middle,” Waiters stated. “He did a tremendous job getting his body in shape. If you get by us. You would have to go over by him in the middle.”
The Celtics selected Melo with the No. 22 pick in the 2012 draft, one spot after they landed Jared Sullinger.
While Sullinger emerged as a key contributor for the Celtics, Melo logged just 36 minutes in six appearances during his rookie season and spent much of the year with the Maine Red Claws of the D-League.
Celtics President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge wrote on Twitter that he was “saddened” to learn of Melo’s death.
The Celtics traded Melo to the Memphis Grizzlies in August 2013, and he was waived soon after. Melo signed with the Dallas Mavericks before the 2013-14 season but was waived before the start of the regular season.
“I don’t know what really happened. I just don’t know,” Waiters said. “I don’t know what went wrong. I thought Fab would be in the NBA for a while. It is surprising that he went back over to Brazil. He had his own reasons. We may never know.”
Melo never reached the heights his family and his friends assumed he would. He made it to college but spent two scandal-ridden years at Syracuse before leaving school. He made it to the NBA as a first-round pick but appeared in just six total games. Is he a failure? Melo came to this country not knowing a word of English without his parents and became a first-round pick in the NBA.
He made an impact on the life of a current NBA player in Waiters who still considers him a brother today while knocking down shots against the defending NBA champions. No one is perfect. However before the age of 26 he had “Fab” moments.
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