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The James Sosinski Story: How a former UMass QB is getting a chance with Kansas basketball

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James Sosinski's KU football head shot.

James Sosinski's KU football head shot. by Matt Tait

One semester of basketball at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix was all it took for James Sosinski to draw interest and scholarship offers from mid-major programs all over the West Coast, according to his former coach Daven Vo.

And now the KU football player turned potential KU basketball walk-on is on the brink of joining the No. 2 ranked team in the nation.

Whether it's as a full-time walk-on or as more of a practice player remains to be seen.

But KU coach Bill Self said Tuesday night, after his team's 96-58 victory over Toledo, that Sosinski, a backup tight end for David Beaty's Kansas football team, had practiced with the Jayhawks once and would essentially try out the rest of the week to see if there was a way the Jayhawks could use him.

According to Vo, that chance is all the 6-foot-7, 260-pound Sosinski will need to impress the Kansas coaches.

In describing Sosinski as “a baller at heart” during a phone interview with the Journal-World on Wednesday night, Vo gushed about the skills, character and work ethic of KU's potential new player.

“I know I'm selling him like he's this cadillac,” admitted Vo, now an assistant at nearby Butler Community College. “But he truly is one of my favorite guys I've ever coached. When he came to us, I was like, 'Where've you been all our life?'”

Vo also answered that question during the interview.

After starring as an all-state quarterback at Hamilton High in Chandler, Ariz., Sosinski accepted a football scholarship to play quarterback at UMass. After red-shirting during his freshman year and injuring his foot shortly thereafter, the Arizona native developed a desire to return home following summer workouts.

“I had been all over him because I knew he wasn't happy at UMass,” said Vo, who served as the South Mountain head coach for seven seasons. “He was too far from home.”

After returning to his home state and joining Vo's program, Sosinski was forced to sit out a semester because not enough of his credits transferred with him. So while waiting to join the basketball team at South Mountain, Sosinski worked out with a former football player who discovered something unexpected during their sessions. Sosinski was fast. Like, crazy fast.

After being clocked in the 4.40-4.45 range in the 40-yard dash, Vo said it was then that people started selling Sosinski on the idea that he could make a lot of money playing football, perhaps as a tight end in the mold of a Tony Gonzalez or Antonio Gates.

When the second semester of the basketball season rolled around, Sosinski hit the floor and made an immediate impact. In his first game, Vo said Sosinski faced two future high-major players, “and dominated them.”

Two games into his time at South Mountain, Vo said Sosinski received a scholarship offer from Washington State. Soon thereafter, an offer from Oregon State came. And more followed. But he chose not to take any of them.

“He really didn't know which one he wanted to do,” Vo said. “He was being told that football was a gold mine, but he loves basketball. He's a baller at heart.”

That conundrum eventually led him to Kansas, where he joined Beaty's squad before the recently completed 2017 season and, ultimately got in touch with Self and the KU basketball coaches in the past week or so.

"This is no disrespect to James," Self said Thursday during his regularly scheduled news conference. "But if he's a guy that we have to rely on to help us, that doesn't seem good. So we're looking at him as a practice guy who can come in and be a big body in practice."

As for when he might make a decision on what role Sosinski could play, Self explained that the whole experiment was still in its infant stages. After having Sosinski at practice on Mondya, KU played Tuesday and was off Wednesday.

"We haven't even completed the tryout yet," Self said. "I'm going to let him practice the next two days. We'll decide next week if we want to keep moving forward with it. He seems like a really nice kid (but) this is not a strategic move to add depth when you go on the road and play. That's not it at all. We're looking at it as a practice-type thing. If he can get to the point (where he can play) maybe a minute or two here or there, I guess that's possible. But that would be no different than putting Clay (Young) in or Chris (Teahan)."

Vo said KU's staff reached out to him to ask about Sosinski and Vo told them many of the same things he said during Wednesday's phone interview.

Vo said Sosinski was strong, had good touch on his jump shot, could pass well and was incredibly intelligent. In addition, he noted that Sosinski once played on the AAU hoops circuit with current KU forward Mitch Lightfoot.

“James has a lot of high-level basketball experience," Vo said. "The nice thing that Coach Self is going to have is a guy who will know the drills and will be able to do them right away. He's really smart. He's a quarterback. man. He's seen play books three times thicker than what KU runs. So I think he really would be able to come in and fit in right away. Is he gonna dominate? At that level, no. But he could come in and look like he'd been with them for three months.”

Comments

Craig Alexander 2 weeks ago

This is not painting a good picture for the Preston situation. Dang it!

Richard Wright 2 weeks ago

Matt: Is Preston even allowed to practice with the team at this point?

Matt Tait 2 weeks ago

Yes. He's been practicing this entire time and will continue to do so until told otherwise. My understanding is that they're still hoping to find a way to get him back and, therefore, are continuing to bring him along as if he'll play.

Like Robert references below, adding another big body in practice was something they were open to doing even before Preston's situation popped up.

Brian Huxman 2 weeks ago

Matt, I appreciate you taking the time to interact on here. I think you and Robert are spot-on. They were going to try to add a quality big for practice regardless of what happens with Preston. As much as I'd like to see Billy play in a KU uniform, it certainly appears the reality is that's not going to happen ... sad with such a talented guy!

Matt Tait 2 weeks ago

If I had to bet a large sum of money, I'd probably side with you there. If I had to bet $20, I'd probably bet that we will see Billy play.

The point is: It doesn't sound like it's a done deal yet that he won't play and I think there are at least a few people, Billy included, who are hoping he'll still be able to play this season.

Time will tell, but it would not surprise me if we know something, one way or the other, in the next couple of weeks.

Robert Brock 2 weeks ago

KU is short on personnel with or without Billy Preston.

Jeff Coffman 2 weeks ago

So a 6'7" guy that is crazy fast, couldn't be developed on the football team? "He has seen playbooks three times as thick as what KU runs."

I'm excited about the basketball opportunity; however, I'm not sure I understand what Beaty is doing on the development front. I remember he was a receivers coach focused on routes, is he not able to help a tight end figure out routes, blocking, and catching?

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks ago

Dude, I understand that you're frustrated... but this article really has nothing to do with Beaty

John Strayer 2 weeks ago

Wow...6-7, 260 lb QB...that sounds more like LB territory....

Matt Tait 2 weeks ago

His former coach told me he played around 240 when he was playing basketball, but it makes plenty of sense for him to be about 260 for football, especially if he was still moving well and running fast.

He's an interesting player, for sure. If he does end up joining the team, I doubt he'll play much, if at all, but he sounds like a decent insurance policy and extra five fouls.

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks ago

If this guy fits in and can help the team then taking him as a walk on is a win-win, even if only as a practice player, but I really hope that he can make the team as a full walk-on because another big body who gets 5 extra fouls could be very useful in the coming weeks.

Right now we just have Dok and Mitch who are playing, then Preston and the Lawson bros who are practicing. I know that Bill Self has spoken optimistically about getting Preston back on the floor, but we really don't know if that's going to happen or not. Also, De Sousa may or may not be available for second semester, and even if he is he will be joining a team that he's never practiced with, and I wouldn't expect much from him this year.

If anyone gets injured practice player or otherwise that puts us in a bigger hole.

If this guy plays as a walk-on this season that would be awesome, but next season we will not have the shortage of big men it would appear. Dok has an opportunity to go pro, and history tells me that he's more likely to be gone than to stay, however I wouldn't bet the farm on it at this point. Let's assume that he's gone next year. Preston... well he looks like an unlikely candidate to go pro at this point in time... but definitely doesn't look like a sure thing to be back at KU... Things have not gone well for him and he may elect to leave. I will assume he doesn't return. We still have Lightfoot, the Lawson bros will be eligible to play, and Dedric will have something to prove. We have De Sousa who will already know the system, and McCormack... and we're not done recruiting... A four man big rotation of Mitch, Dedric, De Sousa, and McCormack looks pretty good compared to where we are right now.

If Sosinski makes the team and plays this season, I would guess that he would have the opportunity to continue on the team next year if he wants, but obviously the need going forward would be for practice depth whereas right now we are needing warm bodies with fouls to give. I can also see other factors that could influence his decision whether or not to continue being a two-sport athlete, such as injury risk, academics and professional aspirations.

Good luck to the young man, and I hope that he can help us!

Eliott Reeder 2 weeks ago

I was under the impression that with all of our transfers, we don't necessarily need practice bodies, but that it would be nice to have an extra eligible player to trot out for garbage minutes in blow-outs, in order to rest our top 7 and try to avoid injuries.

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks ago

Not sure, but I think Dedric Lawson is a bit undersized at the 4 and KJ Lawson is more of a natural 3. I guess that Billy P, Mitch, and Dedric get to take turns muscling against Dok. My guess is that this Sosinski guy will spend most of practice getting beat up by Dok so that Billy P and Mitch don't have to take as much of the abuse.

Dirk Medema 2 weeks ago

I wonder if Coach Vo maybe overstates things. 4.4 40 and a HS/AAU/JC playbook 3 times as big as Coach Self's.

Gotta respect the kid. Goes from helping block Dorance, Dineen and co. to trying to block Dok. Really probably should be giving him a psyc check :-)

All of that aside, I love the idea of adding him. Maybe he could provide some Kevin Young energy off the bench or some of that '88 football mojo to the team. Both have worked out well for us.

Jonathan Allison 2 weeks ago

I agree, but I think that the comment about the size of his playbook was referring to when he was a QB at UMass more so than when he was playing HS/AAU/JC bball.

Bville Hawk 1 week, 6 days ago

"Sosinski was forced to sit out a semester because not enough of his credits transferred with him"

Isn't it kind of embarrassing for UMass that some of their credits wouldn't transfer to an Arizona Juco???

Maybe this happens all the time going both ways but it seems a bit funny nonetheless.

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