Kansas’ basketball players officially welcomed freshman Silvio De Sousa to the squad at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse.
That’s when KU coach Bill Self informed the recent IMG Academy graduate — in front of his Jayhawk teammates — he’d been cleared by the NCAA for participation in games. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound forward had been practicing with the Jayhawks since Dec. 27 while awaiting final word on his amateur certification, which Self received from the NCAA Saturday morning.
“It was great. The whole locker room was excited. All of us gave him (De Sousa) a big hug and told him, ‘Congratulations,’’’ KU sophomore guard Malik Newman said. “Adding him will give the big fella (Udoka Azubuike) a little more rest. There will not be as much pressure on Mitch (Lightfoot) to be great every night. He (Lightfoot) can be himself. It’s great.”
De Sousa had one turnover and one foul while playing four minutes in Saturday’s 73-72 home victory over Kansas State.
Self had heard Friday night that De Sousa would likely have his status as an amateur certified by 11 a.m. game time.
“To my understanding, the way it went down, there was a big (NCAA) conference yesterday trying to do it (review De Sousa’s case),” Self said. “Then they wanted to review some stuff that maybe one or two people had not had a chance to see everything yet. They reviewed that and reconvened this morning, I don’t know how, maybe conference call, and let us know afterward. We were confident it was going to happen.”
Self said it’s not that unusual for it to take a while to certify athletes this time of year.
“It puts a kid in limbo. Getting a kid eligible to start second semester is harder than what you think,” Self said. “We don’t take a (holiday) break. We take a day off the (Dec.) 25th and are back at it the 26th. Not everybody does it that way,” Self added.
The NCAA closes its doors from Dec. 23 to Jan. 2.
“In a two-semester sport when you have a guy coming in, you need him to be eligible immediately,” Self added. “Certainly that was not the case because all the things the NCAA asked us to do concerning Silvio,” Self said.
The NCAA had asked for some materials that were in De Sousa’s native Angola.
“Our people did a great job,” Self said. “David Reed (KU senior associate AD) did a great job getting that stuff to them as quickly as possible, everything they requested. Then they had to digest it. This was the earliest they could make that decision,” Self added.
“It’s not a killer for us,” Self said of the couple weeks it took to get De Sousa eligible. “Even though we’d like him to be eligible every game, he wasn’t ready to help us yet. It wasn’t a killer for us by any stretch. It would have been rough if he was held out more than 20 percent (of second semester games). He’d already been held out 20 percent of our games this semester. It was nice to get him in uniform. He’ll pick up stuff quicker now because he knows (what it’s like to be in game).”
De Sousa entered the game against K-State to a long, loud ovation from the fans at Allen Fieldhouse fans with 9:44 left in the first half. He actually took the court with KU holding a 21-13 lead. He left when the game was tied, 21-21, at 6:05.
At one point, he accepted a pass and promptly threw the ball out of bounds.
“It was more than what he bargained for,” Self said of De Sousa’s college debut in such a big game. “I asked him if he was fine. He said, ‘Coach I’m great.’
“I also asked him, ‘Were you ready for that?’ He said, ‘No.’ That was a different element. We’ve only coached him two weeks. I don’t think we’ve seen the left-handed hook pass out of bounds back to Kissinger,” he added with a smile of game official Kipp Kissinger.
“He (De Sousa) will be fine,” Self added. “It’s not fair to expect too much. It’s going to take him a couple weeks.”
Of De Sousa, point guard Devonté Graham said: “He’s definitely going to help. It’s going to take him a little bit of time to get adjusted to the college level. Coming straight out of high school in midseason is tough. It’ll take a little while. He said it felt a little different playing out there than IMG. He’ll definitely help us out in coming weeks.”
KU freshman forward Billy Preston still awaits clearance from the NCAA. KU compliance and the NCAA have been looking into the financial picture surrounding a car he’s been driving on campus this school year.
“I don’t have any information on Billy at all,” Self said. “I think it’s probably ridiculous of me to keep asking every four hours, ‘Is there anything?’ They’ll let me know when something happens,” he added, ostensibly referring to KU compliance officials. “I promise you when something happens we’ll let you (media) know. These (cases) are not related in any way, shape or form. We’ve not been given to my knowledge anything that would give us a timetable right now.”