Thursday, May 28, 2009

The New 'Melo?

In this internet-centric era, when highly-touted basketball prospects are covered incessantly from the time they are in middle school until they finally announce their college destination, it is not often that a player of Fabricio de Melo’s caliber flies under the radar.

However, that is exactly what happened with ‘Fab Melo’, who did not become a household name until the past couple of months.

Originally from Brazil, the 7-foot, 260-lb. Melo arrived at Sagemont Academy (Fla.) before last season. He had family in Hispanic-heavy southern Florida, and after much deliberation between Fab and his family, they settled on Sagemont.

Due to state rules regarding international transfers, Melo had to sit out this past season, strictly participating in practice.

Coaches began trickling into Sagemont in the fall to check out 2011 prospects Rod Days and Richard Peters, but curiosity quickly rose about the tall, talented player sitting out.

“It doesn’t take a basketball genius to see the 7-footer who can play and see he’s going to be a player,” Sagemont head coach Adam Ross said.

But everything changed at the King James Classic event in Akron, Ohio, in late April. After several impressive performances, Melo’s name – and game – spread quickly.

Ross said things have really picked up in recent weeks.

"I think that the combination of only being here for a year and not playing basketball has kept his coverage pretty low-key,” Ross said. “AAU was the first games he played, so people noticed. He got put on all the recruiting sites, his recruitment started to pick up.”

Despite not being able to play immediately at Sagemont, Melo has kept busy working on various aspects of his game, as well as attempting to get into game shape.

“He’s put on a lot of weight [since he got here],” Ross said. “He’s probably put on 25 pounds, with most of that weight good weight. Physically, he’s changed quite a bit.

“He’s a tremendous worker. His only basketball experience here has been practice, but he’s spent time working on his body and other individual stuff. He sits on our bench, cheering his teammates on.”

Ross said Melo did his best to stay focused and avoid coasting, like so many players sitting out a year of basketball have a tendency to do.

“It was a little discouraging for him at times,” Ross said. “But he handled it with a tremendous amount of maturity.”

Melo is an outstanding offensive player with a versatile repertoire. He can score inside and out – not something one normally sees from a 7-foot high school player.

“It sounds ridiculous to say this, but there aren’t any holes in his game,” Ross said. “He has a very well-rounded game and can do just about everything on a basketball court.

“He’s multi-faceted as an offensive threat. He’s great with his back to the basket and around the rim. Down low, he takes up space and can finish with both hands. He has really good feet, and can hurt you bad in the post because he can score and pass. If you play him straight-up, he will score more often than not.

“What separates him from most high school posts is his ability to catch the ball away from the rim, and then turn and face. He can shoot from nearly 20-feet, or create his own shot ad take you off the dribble. He can really handle the ball; he can grab a defensive rebound and lead the break or throw an outlet pass.”

Because he sat out for an entire season, Melo is still working to get into game shape and get his conditioning back to its necessary level.

Ross said that the biggest thing is going to be his ability to adapt to the college game.

“The speed of the game at the college level is so much faster than at the high school level and at the AAU level,” he said. “That will be an adjustment for him.”

Melo has only played basketball for four years, participating in soccer in his native Brazil before outgrowing the sport and moving on to basketball.

Off the court, Melo is humble and eager to improve in all aspects of his life.

“He’s one of the best kids I’ve ever been around,” Ross said. “He’s a fun-loving kid, but he understands the opportunities he’s created for himself.”

Sounds like a coach’s dream, right? Not surprisingly, Melo has nearly every college in the country pining for his services.

“There are probably 25-30 schools inquiring about Fab on a regular basis,” Ross said. “It’s difficult to keep all the schools involved.”

Melo has taken visits to Louisville, Connecticut, Syracuse and Florida, with Ross saying no further trips are planned at the moment.

“We are going to sit down and see if one of those four schools is the right fit for Fab,” Ross said.

His visits to Connecticut and Louisville took place during the season, allowing Melo to get more of a basketball experience while there.

“It’s always a plus to see a basketball game,” Ross said. “You get to see the environment, see the fans, see the players.”

During his visit to Connecticut, Melo watched the Huskies play against Notre Dame on Senior Night. It was right after head coach Jim Calhoun’s 800th win, so he was presented with a banner that night.

At Louisville, Melo saw the Cardinals face Marquette in a close contest that Louisville pulled out down the stretch.

“It was an incredible game, Freedom Hall is an incredible place,” Ross said.

Melo’s visit to Syracuse spurred various rumors regarding a commitment to the Orange, which obviously weren’t true. However, he did enjoy the visit to upstate New York.

“We spent a lot of time with coach Boeheim and his staff,” Ross said. “We spent time with the players towards campus, saw the Carrier Dome and the new facility, ironically named the Melo Center. We met with academic people and the athletic director. Fab played some pick-up with the players.”

The only non-Big East program that Melo visited was in-state school Florida, also his most recent visit.

Ross said that head coach Billy Donovan has made an impression on Melo.

“Coach Donovan has had a lot of success, with two national championships,” he said. “He’s a very, very accomplished coach and a very good guy.”

Despite the fact that it’s the closest school to Sagemont, Ross said that Florida does not have an advantage because of its location.
“I’m not sure distance is a major factor in his recruitment,” he said. “Because he’s from Brazil, geographic location won’t be a factor.”

As for what will be the major issues in Melo’s ultimate decision, Ross mentioned a variety of things.

“First and foremost, his comfort level is going to be important,” he said. “He’s 3,000, 4,000 miles away from home, so it’s really a matter of feeling as comfortable as possible.

“Of course, like most kids, there are also a lot of other factors: style of play, ability to come in and make an impact early. And academics are important to Fab. He wants to get involved in international business, so we have to look at those programs.”

Although there are rumors going around that Melo is planning to announce his decision before the July recruiting period, Ross said there is a chance they will do that, but there is no specific timetable for Melo’s college choice.

“I think that we’re taking the approach that when we find that one place is the right place, we’ll make a decision. We could make a decision [before July] but not if he doesn’t feel comfortable pulling the trigger.”

Expect the hype and coverage about Fabricio de Melo to increase this summer, as he will play a full AAU schedule with the Florida Rams. He played in the Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions this past weekend, and will also be taking part in the NBA Top 100 Camp in Charlottesville, Va.; the Adidas It Takes5 in Cincinnati, Ohio; the Lebron James and Amare Stoudemire Nike Skill Academies; and the Adidas super 64 in Las Vegas.

No matter how hard anyone tried, it will be impossible for Melo to stay under the radar any longer.

No comments:

Post a Comment