Fab Melo’s comments on NCAA tourney suspension don’t strike the right notes

Fab Melo finally spoke publicly Tuesday about the suspension that kept him from playing in the NCAA tournament last March, but the former Syracuse center's responses probably didn't win over any of his critics.

He didn't detail what he failed to accomplish in the classroom that led to Syracuse declaring him ineligible. He didn't shoulder any blame for not putting forth maximum effort in his studies. And he didn't apologize for letting down his teammates and Syracuse fans.

Asked by the The Associated Press after a workout with the Indiana Pacers what led to his suspension, Melo only confirmed it was "academic" in nature. He said NBA executives are "comfortable" with that explanation, no surprise considering pro teams are more worried about his ability to pass a basketball than a math class.

''They ask, I explain (what) happened — that I came from another country and until four years ago didn't even speak English," Melo said.

"It was very difficult not to be able to play. But that's something I couldn't do anything about."

The suspension of Melo just two days before Syracuse's opening-round NCAA tournament game against UNC-Asheville diminished the top-seeded Orange's chances of making the Final Four for the first time since 2003. They missed Melo's defensive presence in the middle of their trademark two-three zone, falling to Ohio State in the Elite Eight without the Big East defensive player of the year.

Some Syracuse fans may not forgive Melo regardless of what he said about his suspensions, but he did not help himself any by staying silent for months, nor by not being forthcoming in his first public comments.

He's undoubtedly right that the language barrier surely played a role in his academic woes. Nonetheless, the potential late first-round pick could have taken more responsibility for his mistakes and apologized to his teammates and coaches for not being available when they needed him most.