Its official. Fab Melo, the starting sophomore center for the No. 2-ranked Syracuse Orange men's basketball program has been reinstated, says a press release by the Syracuse University Athletic Department. Fabricio Melo (7-foot-0, 244 pounds) had missed the Orange's past three games due to an unresolved academic issue from the first semester, but will play Saturday (noon on ESPN) against the St. John's Red Storm at Madison Square Garden. Because of private federal laws, the university will not disclose anymore information.
Melo's return to the lineup adds the Big East Conference's leading shot blocker (3.0 per game) and Syracuse's best rebounder (5.7 per game). During the course of Syracuse's school record 20-0 start, Melo was the anchor in the Orange's 2-3 zone defense, but since his absence the Orange went 2-1 and struggled on the boards being outrebounded 118-86.
The Orange (22-1, 9-1 Big East) were also killed by opposing Big East bigmen, which all combined to average 17.7 ppg and 9.3 rpg.
The addition of Melo to the starting lineup will push freshman forward Rakeem Christmas to his normal power forward starting position. The past three games, Christmas started at center, while sophomore C.J. Fair started at power forward.
Last season, Melo entered as the top-ranked center prospect, a McDonald's All-American, the Big East's Preseason Rookie of the Year honor and struggled to fulfill high expectations after averaging 2.9 ppg and 1.9 rpg. Melo did start in 24 of SU's 32 games, but averaged just 9.9 minutes per game.
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