Fab Melo, the Syracuse center and current NBA draft prospect, famously missed the 2012 NCAA tournament thanks to academic suspension. Given the amount of resources and effort devoted to making sure Syracuse basketball players like Melo are able to be Syracuse basketball players during the most important part of the Syracuse basketball season, the suspension strained credulity.
At the time, no real explanation was given. In the minor-detail-obsessed process that is the NBA draft, however, suspensions are the kinds of things scouts and general managers want to at least understand. They may not care if a prospect can calculate discrete mathematics. But they definitely want to know what kind of person a prospect is off the court; one's ability to get the baseline level of academic work done would seem to correlate quite strongly to the kind of worker and teammate that player will be once he reaches the highest level of the sport.
On Tuesday, Melo described his attempt to explain the situation to NBA teams. It did not go particularly well:
"It was academic," Melo said Tuesday after working out for the Pacers in Indianapolis. "They ask, I explain (what) happened -- that I came from another country and until four years ago didn't even speak English." [...] "It was very difficult not to be able to play," he said. "But that's something I couldn't do anything about."
Melo's difficulties with the English language are understandable, but he was able to remain eligible for nearly all of his freshman season, when the language was even newer and the adjustment process no doubt more difficult. Even worse is the notion that his grades were something Melo "couldn't do anything about." You can't do anything about an injury. You can most definitely do something about grades.
Judging by the responses here, Syracuse fans would seem to agree. They aren't exactly ready to forgive Melo for missing the NCAA tournament in a season that included designs on a national title run -- and which was halted in large part by Syracuse's inability to contain Ohio State's interior attack in the Elite Eight. They don't buy the explanation. Frankly, it's hard to blame them.