Silvio De Sousa's return to KU lineup from suspension won't involve large role
With No. 1-ranked Kansas playing so well and so many pages of documents to scour in KU’s response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations, it’s easy to forget that the Jayhawks are about to add another big man to their lineup.
With one game left in the regular season, Silvio De Sousa is officially back. His 12-game suspension ended, coincidently, as the Jayhawks wrapped up at least a share of the Big 12 title without him.
So now, a week into March, for the first time since Jan. 21, when De Sousa made some heat-of-the-moment errors in judgment during a fracas with Kansas State that he now regrets, the 6-foot-9, 250-pound forward returns to the lineup versus Texas Tech.
Just in time to help KU try and win the 2020 league title outright. What a story, right? Well, not really.
It would have felt crazy to say, write, hear or read before the season began, but the fact is the Jayhawks don’t even really need De Sousa to achieve that goal or the larger ones they still have in front of them.
Even before De Sousa threw punches at K-State players and hoisted a stool above his head during a rivalry game skirmish, actions he would later describe as “unacceptable behavior” and a “poor representation” of his team and his “own character,” the backup big man’s impact for KU was sporadic.
Having De Sousa back in uniform will become a luxury for the Jayhawks (27-3 overall, 16-1 Big 12). In his six appearances in league games in January, before his suspension, he only played 6.2 minutes on average — and that was when KU coach Bill Self still used two-big lineups at times.
So what does De Sousa’s role look like now, with the Jayhawks playing one big with four guards almost exclusively? Even Self admitted he doesn’t know the exact answer.
“I know he's going to travel with us. And he'll suit up. I don't know — that doesn’t mean he'll play or play much or anything,” Self said.
Basically, De Sousa has become an insurance policy and a No. 3 center. If anything were to occur that would lead Self to have both Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack on the bench — for instance, they both have two or more fouls before halftime — then the post spot goes to De Sousa.
“We've been kind of set in how we've done things and everything,” Self said of his team’s rotation, after the Jayhawks won their 15th game in a row. “And David's played really well, so I don't see Silvio's eligibility impacting David's minutes. So I don't know what that’ll look like.”
When many people think about De Sousa’s potential, his role in KU’s run to the 2018 Final Four first comes to mind. A freshman who didn’t even join the lineup until January of that year, the reserve from Angola gave the Jayhawks 4.8 points and 5.4 rebounds off the bench during the NCAA Tournament. As the only backup big for Azubuike versus Duke in the Elite Eight, De Sousa came through with 4 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes on a day that Azubuike fouled out.
Before he got the chance to continue his promising trajectory, De Sousa ultimately lost his entire sophomore season, as the NCAA ruled him ineligible in the wake of a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball. KU remains in hot water as the result of that investigation and the federal trial that followed it. The NCAA alleges, among other violations, that De Sousa’s guardian, Fenny Falmagne, received $2,500 from an agent in an effort to get De Sousa enrolled at KU.
The university’s lengthy response to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations, made public Thursday, includes numerous references to the recruitment of De Sousa — his name is simply redacted from the published version of the document.
De Sousa’s return coinciding with the response makes the timing strange. And that’s actually appropriate, because his two-plus years at KU so far have involved bizarre twists and turns, including being reinstated by the NCAA for the 2019-20 season only to lose a chunk of it because of his involvement in the K-State fight.
“I do know he's paid a pretty heavy price,” Self said of the 12-game suspension. “It’s basically cost him the season. So we'll be excited to have him with us.”
As much as De Sousa has practiced with KU since getting to campus in late December of 2017, the on-again, off-again nature of his college career has stunted his development as a player. In-game reps are a crucial component of that growth. It doesn’t seem like he’ll get many of those in the weeks ahead either.
Perhaps De Sousa’s senior season at KU will be the one where he finally becomes a regular contributor. In the meantime, the Jayhawks have an emergency center who would start for many other college programs.