Jayhawks begin as questions swirl around sophomore De Sousa
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Silvio De Sousa mugged for a couple cameras, then did a couple dance moves for video, before finally settling into a chair on the floor of Allen Fieldhouse.
He looked relaxed. Completely at ease. Chill, even.
He certainly didn’t seem concerned that, at almost the exact same time Wednesday, his name was being brought up in a court room in New York in a criminal trial about corruption in big-time basketball.
De Sousa is among a handful of players linked to a pay-for-play scheme that has resulted in charges against former Louisville assistant Christian Dawkins, former amateur coach Merl Code and former Adidas executive James Gatto. And among those who testified Wednesday was Kansas compliance official Jeff Smith, who said the school was cooperating with the investigation.
Kansas has not been accused of any wrongdoing, and De Sousa and Jayhawks coach Bill Self both said they anticipated the sophomore forward being eligible — “I know I’m going to play,” De Sousa said, before deftly deflecting any additional questions about the investigation.
Still, it’s a shadow that has hung over the program much of the past year.
“I obviously can’t comment on what’s ongoing,” Self said Wednesday, “but I can say this: In the past I’ve made a statement that we certainly believe, based on the information we had, that this thing would have a positive resolution. But that was based on the information we had. Who knows what could happen in the next whatever period of time, but I’m taking the approach — as everyone is on our team — that we are having Silvio De Sousa playing for us this year.”
De Sousa arrived at the semester change last season, providing the Jayhawks some much-needed interior depth behind Udoka Azubuike. He quickly made strides as he adjusted from high school to the Big 12, and had some of his best games when the postseason rolled around.
He had 16 points and eight rebounds against West Virginia in the conference tournament, and he had four points and 10 boards against Duke in the game that sent Kansas to the Final Four.
Now, De Sousa is expected to provide experience to a team featuring a trio of high-profile transfers and a few blue-chip prospects but precious few who have actually played for the Jayhawks.
“I can’t answer if he’s doing a good job of not reading stuff,” Self said of De Sousa, “because I don’t know that to be true. But I can tell you he’s done a great job of getting better. His attitude is unreal, a real positive, and he appears from our standpoint to be playing with a totally clear conscience.
“I know he’s been at the center of a lot of things that have been said,” Self added, “but I think he has been very positive in how he’s handled this and it’s probably made him grow up quite a bit.”
The Jayhawks began pursuit of their 15th consecutive Big 12 title a couple weeks ago with their annual “Boot Camp,” an intense physical conditioning program. Now, practices have started to ramp up and the first exhibition game against Emporia State is a mere two weeks away. The regular season opens with a high-profile showdown Nov. 6 against Michigan State in Indianapolis.
“We know the expectations,” said K.J. Lawson, who along with his brother Dedric redshirted last year after transferring from Memphis, and who is expected to play significant minutes this season.
Shooting guard Charlie Moore is also eligible after transferring from California, and Azubuike joins Mitch Lightfoot, Lagerald Vick and Marcus Garrett in providing some experience.
Throw in a trio of five-star prospects in guards Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson and big man David McCormack, and Kansas has more depth on the roster than any time the past few years.
In fact, the biggest question facing Self during the next two weeks is how to divide up minutes and whether anybody in danger of sitting on the bench too long should ultimately redshirt.
“It’s a good problem,” he said, “as long as there is separation by the time the season starts.”
That moment isn’t far off, either.
“The only thing that’s potentially negative,” Self said, “is our schedule is so hard early. The team we put on the court in November isn’t the team we’ll put on the floor in February. I’m confident in that. We’ll be a much better team by league play.”