De Sousa discusses early struggles at KU, says he's not worried about FBI probe

By Gary Bedore

Washburn coach Brett Ballard reminded his Ichabod basketball campers Tuesday morning that Kansas sophomore power forward Silvio De Sousa struggled after arriving at KU from IMG Academy last Dec. 27.

“He didn’t get to play right away,” Ballard, a former KU player and director of basketball operations, said in introducing the 6-foot-9, 245-pound Angola native to a group of attentive youths seated on the Lee Arena court.

“Did he pout? Did you pout Silvio?” he asked De Sousa, who worked Ballard’s camp with KU teammate Marcus Garrett on Tuesday.

“No” was the answer from both De Sousa and Ballard.

“He kept working and did what coach (Bill Self) asked and ended up playing a big role,” Ballard added, asking his campers to have the same attitude when they play organized sports.

De Sousa — he and sophomore combo guard Garrett answered questions from the campers and also took part in instructional drills — did indeed show patience and eventual improvement after graduating from high school and heading to Lawrence at first-semester break a year ago.

First, De Sousa had to sit four games as he awaited NCAA clearance to participate in games. After playing just four minutes (one turnover, one foul) in his debut against Kansas State on Jan. 13 at Allen Fieldhouse, he logged two minutes or less in six of the next 10 games, being held out completely in two of the contests.

“It happened during the Oklahoma State game,” De Sousa said of a transformation March 3, a game in which he scored seven points and grabbed three rebounds in 13 minutes. He had one big game before that — a 10-point, eight rebound home outing against Oklahoma on Feb. 19.

De Sousa followed the OSU contest in Stillwater by averaging 10.0 points and 9.7 rebounds a game in the Big 12 Tournament and 4.8 points and 5.4 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament. He grabbed 10 rebounds and scored four points while playing 26 minutes in an Elite Eight victory over Duke.

“That game changed everything. After that my confidence was going and going,” De Sousa added of the 82-64 setback to OSU.

For the season, De Sousa averaged 4.0 points and 3.7 boards in 20 games.

“The way I run the floor and way I go after every single loose ball … I realized once I start doing that I’ll have more playing time. I made sure that happened,” De Sousa said.

In retrospect he remains happy he made the decision to leave IMG after graduating in December. He could have finished the season there and made his KU debut as a freshman in 2018-19.

“I’m glad I got to come to KU early in the season. It helped me adjust,” De Sousa said. “It definitely helped me a lot to get to experience college early. I was trying to adjust myself when I first came to Kansas. By the end of the season, I was doing a pretty good job.”

De Sousa — he hit 68.1 percent of his shots and 71.4 percent of his free throws as a freshman — said, “I’m pretty sure the coaching staff wants me to improve my defense and my jump shot of course. That’s what has to happen (this summer).”

He is part of a deep KU big man group that includes Udoka Azubuike, Dedric Lawson, David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot.

“Right now I think we are a much better team that last year,” De Sousa said. KU (31-8) won its 14th-straight Big 12 regular season title, won the postseason tourney crown and reached the Final Four in 2017-18. “I look forward to us having a good season.”

He said he’s been spending a lot of time with freshman McCormack, a 6-10 McDonald's All-American from Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, Va.

“I’ve been talking to him to let him know what it’s going to be like during the season. It’s a tough road,” said De Sousa. “I’m trying to make sure he knows everything we have to do as a team.”

De Sousa said he’d like to improve on some of his freshman-year accomplishments, which included his grabbing six or more rebounds seven times and scoring in double figures twice.

He had a season-high 16 points on 8-of-8 shooting (with 10 rebounds) in the Big 12 title game against West Virginia. That game came after his 11-board outing in a semifinal win over Kansas State.

“As a big man I think I have to get those numbers,” De Sousa said.

One potential road block to minutes would be if his eligibility is impacted by the FBI’s assertion that De Sousa’s guardian received payments to steer the player to KU.

Court documents do not name De Sousa or his guardian, but the timeline of events outlined in charges against Adidas executive James Gatto line up with De Sousa's commitment to KU. De Sousa's guardian denied accepting any money in an interview with The Star.

“I am not really worried about it. I know I didn’t do anything so I don’t need to worry about it,” De Sousa said of the ongoing FBI investigation.

He said he’s only focused on school and college basketball.

“I'd much rather stay in my room and just do some school stuff, just work on my game. That’s what will make me a better person, a better player,” De Sousa said.

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