Fab Melo, the former Celtics first-round draft pick who died Saturday at age 26 in his native Brazil, was well known at the Portland Expo and not only for the shots he swatted into the stands.

Michelle Butler, the Red Claws official scorer, remembers the spirit of a 12-year-old boy inside Melo’s seven-foot frame.

“He was like a little kid,” Butler said Sunday after the Red Claws played Grand Rapids. “He’d be sitting on the (scorer’s) table, chatting with us and eating a little candy.”

Butler provides gum and candy for officials, players, coaches and the folks who work the D-League games. Melo’s favorite?

“He did like one,” said Sally Leger, the shot-clock operator. “Part of me wants to say Mike & Ikes.”

The Red Claws asked for a moment of silence before Sunday afternoon’s game, just prior to the national anthem. The Celtics drafted Melo 22nd overall in 2012, after his sophomore year at Syracuse University. He saw more action with the Red Claws (33 games) than with the Celtics (six) and memorably set a D-League record with 14 blocks against Erie in a game at the Expo on Dec. 22, 2012.

He also scored 15 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in that game, becoming only the third player in franchise history to record a triple-double.

“He had many a game where he altered a lot of shots,” said Dajuan Eubanks, team president of the Red Claws. “It was always good to see that presence inside.”

Eubanks remembered Melo as soft spoken, a good kid who “had the big dream like everyone else, trying to get back up to the big level. Unfortunately, it never worked out.”

After a year as a Celtic, Melo was traded to Memphis and eventually waived.

He returned to Brazil in 2014 to play professionally and spent the end of last season playing for Brasilia in the Liga Sudamericana.

On Sunday at the Expo, Stacey Ryan, the wife of team owner Bill Ryan Jr., wore a Melo No. 13 Celtics jersey with his autograph on the back.

Abby Ryan, now a high school senior, bought the jersey with her dad on a trip to TD Garden and wore it the next time Melo was at the Expo, playing for the Claws.

“He got the biggest kick out of it,” Ryan Jr. said. “He was laughing. He came over after the game and signed it.”

Bill Ryan remembered Melo as a happy, cheerful person who had no qualms about making the trip up to Maine to play in the D-League.

“Just really sincere, always had a smile on his face, never took anything too seriously,” Ryan said. “He wasn’t one of those guys that was disappointed about playing for the Red Claws. He would sign autographs and not be like, ‘What am I doing here? I’m supposed to be in the NBA.’ ”

Chris Sedenka, the Red Claws radio broadcaster, had plenty of occasions to interview Melo after games. Despite the player not being a native speaker of English, Melo always was happy to talk, Sedenka said.

“Even with broken English, he had no problem being interviewed,” Sedenka said. “He had a great spirit about him.”

Sedenka said Melo was a throwback, a true close-to-the-basket big man in an era when many of similar size like to shoot from the perimeter.

“It was shocking, stunningly said news (Saturday),” Sedenka said. “He’s going to be missed.”

Glenn Jordan can be contacted at 791-6425 or

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