Kansas’ men’s basketball office was as festive Friday as it is on days the Jayhawk coaches receive commitments on the recruiting trail.
“Everybody likes good news. Of course we enjoy good news,” KU assistant coach Norm Roberts said Friday afternoon after a member of the school’s compliance staff informed him that Silvio De Sousa’s college career would resume during the 2019-20 season after a year’s hiatus — one caused because of an NCAA suspension that had just been overturned by the NCAA’s Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement.
“For me, probably. I can’t speak for everybody else,” Roberts, KU’s big-man coach, said when asked if it felt as if the Jayhawks added a standout player in recruiting. ”Having Silvio back makes our team a lot better — more athletic, stronger, bigger, all those things. He has that experience, too.”
Roberts and fellow assistant coach Jerrance Howard were in Lawrence on Friday along with some other KU staff members, while assistant Kurtis Townsend and head coach Bill Self were on vacation (school is out of session until June 4) when word arrived that the 6-foot-9, 245-pound De Sousa had been freed from the inactive list.
De Sousa — who was ranked No. 18 nationally by Rivals.com entering the 2017-18 season in which he averaged 4.0 points and 3.7 rebounds in 20 games for KU — has potential to have a breakout junior year, Roberts says.
“He compares to kids that are in the top five now, top ten right now. It’d be safe to say top ten,” Roberts said, asked specifically how the 2019 version of De Sousa would rate on a recruiting list if one was issued Friday.
“We feel with Silvio we have an unbelievable group of big guys, as good a group of bigs as we’ve had. We thought we had it last year, but Udoka (Azubuike) got hurt and Silvio was out. We’re really excited about this group and of course everybody’s excited for Silvio. He’s been very patient (while) waiting a long time for this.”
KU will enter the 2019-20 season with a big-man group of seniors Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot, junior De Sousa and sophomore David McCormack.
De Sousa, who turns 21 in October, had declared for the 2019 NBA Draft just in case his appeal was not granted by the NCAA. He’s now able to remove his name well before Wednesday’s deadline and play his first — and maybe last — full season of college basketball. A pro prospect, De Sousa entered college expecting to play two or three seasons before heading to the pros.
“He really wants to play for the Jayhawks. He really wants to play for Kansas. Players, coaches ... we’re all happy for him he can do that,” Roberts stated.
After arriving from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., midway through the school year in December of 2017, De Sousa started slowly as he adjusted to college basketball. He emerged as a rotation player down the stretch — in the 2018 Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.
De Sousa, who is from Angola, scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the Big 12 title game against West Virginia after grabbing 11 rebounds in a semifinal win over Kansas State. He had six or more rebounds in his last three games of the NCAAs.
“He helped take us to the Final Four. We won the Big 12 Tournament without Udoka if you remember that,” Roberts said.
Nobody knew after the 2017-18 season that De Sousa was to be held out his sophomore campaign as the NCAA looked into an alleged payment to his guardian by an Adidas representative.
“He practiced every day with us, took part in individual workouts,” Roberts said of 2018-19. “Even though he was on the scout team at practice, he had to go against those other guys (starters) all the time. We tried to make Silvio first option on the scout team. We played a lot through him to let him become more aggressive. We did a lot of that with him.”
Roberts said De Sousa since his freshman year, “has improved his shot. He can shoot from 15 to 18 feet pretty well. It’s something he has to work on, get better at. He’s not a knockdown three-point shooter. That’s not his game.
“He can finish around the basket, has increased his range shooting the ball. He’s a physical presence, extremely focused, very bright.”
Roberts does not label De Sousa a 4 or a 5.
“He’s one of our bigs. The 4 and the 5 do the same thing,” Roberts said. “We can play him multiple positions. He can do so many different things. Udoka will play close (to basket) whereas Silvio can play somewhere away from the basket. David, Mitch ... all our bigs can do a lot of different things.”
Roberts did not buy into any comparison between De Sousa and 6-9 Dedric Lawson, who played next to Azubuike in nine games last year before Azubuike suffered a season-ending injury.
“I wouldn’t put that on Silvio. Dedric was one of the most skilled players we’ve had here. His whole game was skill like a guard,” Roberts said. “Silvio will be the dimension of strength and athleticism we did not have enough of last year when Doke went down. He (De Sousa) brings us rebounding on both ends and can switch ball screens and guard some out there a bit. He has to get better at that (defense). He’ll bring different things to the table, but to say he’s a scorer like Dedric, no.”
Roberts says it will not be difficult for De Sousa to adjust to game action his junior season.
“He’ll be able to work out here in the summer (starting June 4) and be with everybody full time,” Roberts said. “He’s been in the system. He knows what Coach (Self) wants. Defensively, offensively, he’s way ahead of the game compared to what he was back then. I think he’s going to be terrific for us.”
He’s obviously going to be playing with a free mind after so many months of not knowing if he’d ever be allowed to play college ball again.
“He’s always been a happy kid. He’s one of the sweetest kids I’ve been around,” Roberts said. “I know he’s excited now and everything. In a couple weeks it’ll be, ‘Let’s get down to business, get ready for the season.’ He knows that. He’s a pretty mature kid.”
De Sousa’s return to KU means the Jayhawks, who are allowed 13 scholarship players, currently have 11 scholarship players on the 2019-20 roster. Scholarship players who at this time are expected to be on the 2019-20 team: De Sousa, Azubuike, Lightfoot, McCormack, Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji, as well as signees Christian Braun, Issac McBride and Tristan Enaruna. Freshmen guards Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes have until 10:59 p.m., Wednesday to withdraw their names from the NBA Draft if they wish to return to school.
R.J. Hampton, a 6-5 senior point guard at Little Elm (Texas) High School, who is ranked No. 6 in the recruiting class of 2019 by Rivals.com, on Tuesday will announce for one of three schools — KU, Memphis or Texas Tech. One of his best friends, Jalen Wilson, a 6-8 senior small forward from Guyer High in Denton, Texas, will visit KU on Thursday and North Carolina on June 3. He also has Oklahoma State and Florida on his list and is still considering Michigan. He recently asked out of his Michigan national letter of intent when John Beilein accepted the Cleveland Cavaliers job.