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