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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Silvio De Sousa’s ‘terrific,’ bloody performance saves KU in Elite Eight

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) and Duke forward Javin DeLaurier (12) fight for a ball during the second half, Sunday, March 25, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) and Duke forward Javin DeLaurier (12) fight for a ball during the second half, Sunday, March 25, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.

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Omaha, Neb. — Silvio De Sousa sat at his locker with a bandage on his left knee, a bloodstain on the fabric over his thigh and a single piece of red confetti stuck to his shoulder.

It was a “heavyweight bout,” coach Bill Self would later say, and De Sousa looked the part of the champion. He was bruised, battered and bloody, but smiling. His Jayhawks, trailing and without their most indispensable big man for the final 119 seconds of regulation and overtime, did what the two Kansas teams before them couldn’t.

“Oh, this is crazy,” said De Sousa after KU's 85-81 overtime win. “I never felt so good in my life.”

Blood, sweat, whatever — De Sousa, a should-be high school senior, gave it all.

After scrapping for a rebound, diving back on the court for a loose ball and again to nearly force a tie-up, his left knee was split open.

It wasn’t until the next timeout that De Sousa actually noticed the blood. The freshman was unfazed.

“I was just diving on the floor on every single loose ball, 50-50 ball,” De Sousa said. “I just said, ‘I’m already bleeding, why not give 100 percent?’ And I went for it.”

Just like his battle wounds, the freshman wore his emotions on his sleeve throughout the performance.

When he returned to the bench for the final time before Udoka Azubuike fouled out, De Sousa smacked his hands together in frustration. Earlier in the game, after forcing back-to-back stops against an explosive Duke offense, De Sousa let out a roar toward the KU bench.

He was greeted by both Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot, who didn’t play a minute in the game but was constantly chatting with De Sousa each time he returned to the sideline.

“Stuff happens, they’re going to score,” Lightfoot told De Sousa at one point. “I mean they’re lottery picks. It’s kind of what they do.”

De Sousa was well aware.

Long before his bloody leg inspired his increased intensity, De Sousa looked at the upcoming matchup against future NBA lottery picks — Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter Jr. He told himself, “I have to play harder than them.”

“Tonight we just were tougher than them,” De Sousa later confirmed.

Physically? Perhaps. But the toughest moment of De Sousa’s game occurred between his ears.

With Azubuike no longer available and the game hanging in the balance, De Sousa hauled in a loose ball and chucked it out to Svi Mykhailuk. He overshot his mark, a scene resembling one of the first times he checked into a game in Allen Fieldhouse.

“That was a bad play, that was a bad play,” Self said, “but certainly he deserves a few bad plays.”

The ball sailed out of bounds. De Sousa went up to Mykhailiuk and told him, “My bad.”

He more than made up for it shortly after.

De Sousa grabbed three rebounds in the final two minutes of regulation and overtime. He hauled in the Duke miss with 36 seconds left that allowed KU to get back down the court and tie the game.

The freshman fought for possessions over and over, at one point diving for a ball on the baseline and knocking it off Duke’s Javin DeLaurier to steal KU an extra possession.

On perhaps the biggest defensive play of the game, Mykhailiuk’s block on Gary Trent Jr. in overtime, De Sousa secured the defensive rebound. Later, he secured another on what would’ve been a game-tying shot by Duke’s Trevon Duval. He quickly passed the ball to Malik Newman, who knocked down two free throws to give KU some separation.

“He’s been like that since day one,” said KU assistant Norm Roberts. “All he cares about is winning.”

De Sousa finished the game with 10 rebounds, tying with Mykhailiuk and Bagley for the game-lead. He scored four points and added an assist and a block in his 26 minutes.

Roberts called his game “terrific.” Self said if De Sousa hadn't joined the team midseason, "we'd be home right now." Azubuike never doubted that De Sousa could step up.

“They think, ‘He’s a freshman, they’re going to try and take advantage of him,’” Azubuike said. “I just told him, ‘Just go out there and play ball.’”

“Bro, I got you,” De Sousa responded. “Anything I can do for you, I’ll do it.”

As the final seconds ticked off the clock and the ensuing celebration got underway, De Sousa broke out in a wide grin. He rapped along to the lyrics of “All I Do is Win” and then again to the stylings of Chris Brown in the locker room along with teammate Sam Cunliffe.

De Sousa and the Jayhawks punched their ticket to San Antonio, a fact that served as yet another reminder of how “crazy,” to use De Sousa’s word, his whole experience has been.

Asked about returning to the site of KU’s last championship, De Sousa smiled and responded: “I didn’t know that, but thank you for letting me know.”

Then he finally owned up to his mistake — the one thing he failed to accomplish on Sunday, one of the most pivotal days in his basketball career.

“I have a lot of homework to do,” De Sousa said of his postgame plans. “So I’ll be in my room.”


More news and notes from Kansas vs. Duke


By the Numbers: Kansas 85, Duke 81.

By the Numbers: Kansas 85, Duke 81.

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

DeSousa, you are a real fighter, bro! This one is for you:

Dirk Medema 8 months, 3 weeks ago

He's getting a little Thomas Robinson action going on, though TRob was an outspoken leader when he was taking the team to the FF.

Is there video of the lockerroom? Emma Stone did a great lip sync of All I do is Win on Fallon once, and my daughter loves it. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLBSo...) Would be fun to see it in this context.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I think Sousa might need a little more time before becoming "an outspoken leader".

Bob Thompson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

“I have a lot of homework to do,” De Sousa said of his postgame plans. “So I’ll be in my room.” Now that is a champion.....

Al Martin 8 months, 3 weeks ago

If you're a "Firefly" fan, "I'll be in my room" has a much funnier connotation. But I agree, that quote from Silvio made me proud of him.

Andy Godwin 8 months, 3 weeks ago

With the never ending Billy Preston issue, Self threw a Hail Mary to find a replacement at midseason (I guess the closest thing to picking up a player on waivers as done in professional sports). It was hard to imagine that a high school kid could come in half way through the season and contribute in meaningful ways. In the beginning he looked lost and clearly out of place. But De Sousa has brought tremendous dedication, effort, and toughness. Many thanks Silvio. Rock Chalk.

Bryce Landon 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Let's not forget also how Silvio did something else that won't show up on the stat sheet. He forced one of Duke's players - may have been Bagley - into a turnover on the baseline midway through the second half. If there were an award for 6th Man of the Midwest Regional, Silvio should get it for sure.

Mike Greer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

We'll never know what this team could have done with Billy Preston, but my guess is, had Billy stayed and been eligible to play, Silvio would still be a high school player and we would have never seen what this team could do with De Sousa. Although he's not the scoring threat Dok is, he's a rebounding machine.

Coach thought he would be ready a little sooner, but his progress from that first game to now is just amazing. He just played 7 more minutes than Dok, tied for the game high rebounds, scrambled for loose balls like his life depended on it, and only had one foul playing against NBA lottery picks. What a fantastic experience this has been for him and the Jayhawks. Not only competing against some of college basketball's best big men, he was doing so with only a couple of months of college experience, just amazing.

Rock Chalk, Silvio!

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Impossible to ever know but all the adversity did was to make this team tougher! Self must have waited until he felt Silvio was ready - really ready, unlike the first few times he was out there.

Good post.

Dave Miller 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Next year Silvio DeSousa will be a scorer as well as a rebounder. KU will be deep in both backcourt and the frontcourt. Next season should be a fun, fun ride!

Gary Wilson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Has anyone improved so much over so little time? And the joy on this kids face after the win, priceless. What was once a weakness (frontcourt) is now a strength.

Steve Zimmerman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

DeSousa is equipped with a perfect body to rebound, to defend any bigs. His got strength, too. All he needs is to move quicker and jump a bit higher. More athleticism, if he wants to compete at the next level. His feet are a bit heavy. But, that's why he can stand solid on the ground, too. Once he develops explosiveness, nothing can stop this guy. And nothing can beat a heart of a champion!!

Al Martin 8 months, 3 weeks ago

Not disagreeing, but he gets down the floor pretty quick after a defensive rebound. He's converted a few lobs that were pure speed and hustle.

Steve Zimmerman 8 months, 3 weeks ago

You're right, I remember that end of first half vs WV..

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I am giddy thinking about next year. For sure back to back final fours at the very least.

Bryce Landon 8 months, 3 weeks ago

For what it's worth, Dennis Dodd was on with Jim Rome today and picked Kansas to cut down the nets in San Antonio this weekend.

Harlan Hobbs 8 months, 3 weeks ago

As did both Seth Greenberg and Jay Bilas on ESPN. Of course, none of that means anything.

However, KU has a dimension this year that has made a huge difference. It is Malik Newman, and he arguably is the best player in the country right now. Then, with the growth of Silvio and the overall leadership of Devonte and Svi, this team is as good as anybody.

I just hope that they come out smoking on Saturday against Villanova and follow it up with a well deserved championship a week from tonight.

Finally, to top it off, there is no greater coach, human being, and mentor than Bill Self. The difference that he has made in the lives of all his players is astounding. That is why so many of them showed up at his HOF induction ceremony, going as far back as his days at Oral Roberts.

Marius Rowlanski 8 months, 3 weeks ago

All true - but not until AFTER we beat Duke.

Joe Joseph 8 months, 3 weeks ago

A lot of people said it at the time, but it does appear that Dok's injury has, in fact, been a blessing in disguise.

Dok's absence put pressure on the guards to step up. Both Newman and Vick have elevated their games since.

Dok's absence gave Silvio an opportunity to play through mistakes and become more comfortable with the speed of college ball.

Crazy how it all works out some times...

Marcia Parsons 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I was so impressed with Vick. He was everywhere! Talk about leaping over tall buildings. I don't know where the real Vick was, but I'm sure glad to see him back.

Kurt Eskilson 8 months, 3 weeks ago

And after Vick hits a big shot he is smiling hugely. It's so great to see him having FUN on the court!

Dave Miller 8 months, 3 weeks ago

And we can't forget Garrett! He's the glue guy. He comes in and spells Vick and there's not much of a drop off as far as defense, screens, and hustle. 4 points, 2 OF rebounds, 2 assists in 8 minutes.

Dirk Medema 8 months, 3 weeks ago

IIRC - Silvio talked about enrolling early about the same time he committed last summer. Well before BP became a question.

Mike Greer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I think you recall correctly, however, coming in when he did, I doubt he would have had much opportunity to play had Billy been on the team. Kind of the same boat Sam finds himself in, too much experience in front of him to really get the playing time needed to develop. Not coming in until mid conference play is a real impediment to getting playing time, especially as tough as the Big XII was this year.

Tom Jones 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I love the progress Silvio's made, but this team would have been better with Preston.

Fortunately, because of Silvio's hard work, they're still a threat to win it all.

Mike Greer 8 months, 3 weeks ago

I just have to make one more comment on Silvio. Technically he's a freshman, but think about what he missed out on that KU's other freshman received. No summer pick up games, no summer practice as allowed for the Italy trip, no Italy games, no summer basketball camp with his teammates, no preseason practice with the team, no exhibition games, no non-conference games, and only half the Big XII season. Holly crap, that's a lot to miss and a lot to make up. Couple that with the tough Big XII schedule, KU's inability to get large leads and hold on to them, so his actual game time was very limited during conference play. His first real opportunity was the Big XII tournament, three good outings, where he improved every game. Four games into the big dance and he's on the hook to put in more time than the starter because of foul trouble. He also managed to move up one spot in the rotation ahead of Mitch. Obviously Coach saw things in this young man he really liked, because I think Coach really likes Mitch and his effort. I just can't tell you how impressed I am with Silvio and how far he's come in such a short amount of time.

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