Silvio De Sousa’s KU basketball debut ‘more than he bargained for,’ Bill Self says

Freshman forward received amateurism clearance Saturday morning

LAWRENCE — It was a moment Silvio De Sousa, his teammates, coaches and Kansas fans everywhere had anticipated for weeks.

 

It may also have been a moment too big for the No. 12-ranked Jayhawks’ newest big.

De Sousa, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound freshman forward and former five-star prospect who joined KU on Dec. 27 after graduating high school early, was declared eligible through the NCAA’s amateurism review process Saturday morning and made his in-game debut in his team’s 73-72 victory over rival Kansas State at Allen Fieldhouse.

It was a debut that included one foul, one turnover and no other statistic of note and lasted four minutes, a stretch which saw the Jayhawks (14-3, 4-1 Big 12) get outscored by eight with their newest frontcourt player on the floor.

“It was more than he bargained for,” Self said. “I asked him if he was fine and he said, ‘Coach, I’m great.’ And I asked him if he was ready for that and he said, ‘No.’ So that was a different element.”

The Angola native received a thunderous ovation upon first checking in with just less than 10 minutes remaining in the first half and heard a polite smattering of applause after checking out less than four minutes later. There would be no return for De Sousa as the Jayhawks used familiar faces the rest of the way in the down-to-the-wire victory.

“He’s going to be fine, but guys, it’s not fair to expect too much,” Self said. “He’s going to be fine, but it’s going to take him another couple of weeks.”

KU got word of De Sousa’s eligibility at around 9:15 a.m., and Self told his players shortly after that. Self expected the news Friday but to his understanding, one or two members of a conference reviewing the case hadn’t seen relevant information to De Sousa’s academic clearance until the group reconvened in a Saturday morning conference call.

Self said the program was always confident De Sousa would be ruled academically eligible but added he would’ve been bothered had the forward missed more than 20 percent of the team’s conference schedule, a number which was fast approaching.

“But it’s not a killer for us,” Self said. “Even though we’d like for him to be eligible for every game, he wasn’t ready to help us yet.”

Self said before the ruling that the freshman will be used in short spurts until he’s ready, and that was certainly the case Saturday. The biggest hope Self has is that De Sousa will be able to contribute on the boards, where the Jayhawks have been out-rebounded by 13 through five conference contests.

“It’s definitely going to help,” KU guard Devonte’ Graham said. “It’s going to take him a little bit of time to get adjusted to the college level coming straight out of high school and then in the middle of a season is tough. It’s going to take him a little while. He said it felt different playing out there than it did at IMG (Academy), but he’s definitely going to help us out in these upcoming weeks.”

Ahead of De Sousa’s debut, KU assistant coach Jerrance Howard said on a pregame interview with the Jayhawk Radio Network that the freshman reminds him in some ways of former NBA All-Star and New York Knicks power forward Charles Oakley.

“For one, it just give us a low-post presence. You can just throw it down there and he has a good feel for the game,” Howard said. “He’s powerful, he’s strong, he can post up and go lead (with) the shoulder and he can finish with his left or his right (hand).”

Howard said he believes De Sousa’s eligibility will be a big boost for 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike.

“We can get back to our old school two game getting back to two bigs with the high-low offense,” Howard said. “Just for our depth and for our team and you can finally get a rotation of big guys.”

Saturday didn’t provide any news on forward Billy Preston, awaiting clearance from the NCAA following the KU compliance department’s look into the financial picture of a vehicle the freshman was driving on campus. Preston has yet to make his collegiate debut.

Self said he’s been given no indication of any timetable for a Preston decision.

“I think it’s probably ridiculous of me to keep asking every four hours if there’s anything,” Self said. “They’re going to let me know when something happens, and I promise you when something happens we’ll let you know.”

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