The guardian of Kansas freshman Silvio De Sousa denied receiving payments that were referenced in new court documents filed Tuesday in the ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball bribery.
"He did not take any money. We did not take any money," Fenny Falmagne told The Star by phone Tuesday night after sending a statement by text message.
"The kids and I never took money from anyone. This is bigger than basketball. These kids and I have sacrificed so much because we know this could change our countries and nation. Anyone that knows me will know that coach Larry Brown is the only person that I take advice from because who he means to me and the kids. He told me, 'Fenny, the people at Kansas are good people and will help Silvio achieve his dream.' And look what it did listening to him. Made it to the Final Four and got significantly better."
De Sousa played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., after arriving in the United States from Angola in January 2015. Falmagne, originally from Congo, is friends with Brown.
According to court documents, Gatto agreed to make payments to the legal guardian of a top-rated prospect. The guardian told an associate of Gatto's in August 2017 that he had been paid to steer the prospect to a university sponsored by a rival company of Adidas and would need to make repayment in order for the player to attend KU, where the player was more interested in attending.
On Aug. 30, 2017, the same day De Sousa announced he would play at KU, court documents say, the unnamed prospect announced, in a "surprise" decision, that he would enroll at Kansas over the school sponsored by the Adidas rival.
A story by the Baltimore Sun indicates Maryland, sponsored by Under Armour and coached by former KU player Mark Turgeon, was considered the favorite for De Sousa and used the word "surprise" in the headline. Falmagne is also the guardian of Bruno Fernando, a childhood friend of De Sousa's from Angola who played for Maryland last season after originally committing to SMU when Brown was coach there. Fernando has declared for the NBA Draft.
“I’ve been close to Fenny a long time. He’s a good guy, cares about kids," Brown told The Star in September 2017. "When he told me Silvio was going to go to KU, that was great. I know Mark wanted him, but Mark got Bruno, so I’m sure it worked out.”
Court documents also say the prospect signed financial aid paperwork with Kansas on Nov. 13, 2017, which is the same day KU announced De Sousa had signed to play basketball for the Jayhawks. De Sousa appeared in 20 of 23 games last season, including all eight postseason games on the Jayhawks' run to the Final Four, after he was cleared to play by the NCAA on Jan. 13.
Between the commitment and signing, the documents detail an exchange between Gatto and his associate, who said he would need to make “another $20,000 payment” to the guardian to “help get the student-athlete ‘out from under’ the deal to attend the school sponsored by the rival company.” It isn’t known whether the payment was made.
KU coach Bill Self said Tuesday night that he would not discuss the two unnamed Jayhawks players referenced in the indictments. Court documents also say Gatto was among a group that from October 2016 to November 2017 “conspired to illicitly funnel approximately $90,000 from Company-1 (Adidas) to the mother of a top high school basketball player.”
"I did not see anywhere nor do I believe that we were thought of to be anything but a victim in the situation," Self said following the Jayhawks' annual postseason basketball banquet in Lawrence, "so I’ll reserve comment further in detail ... and let the university speak to specific matters."
Meanwhile, Falmagne explained his reaction when he saw De Sousa’s name in social media posts and media reports about the Gatto indictment.
“That was just like, it’s just crazy to me,” Falmagne said. “People don’t know the sacrifices we have made and what we are really trying to accomplish here. It was really upsetting. Then it was like, you know it’s the world that we live in.
“Your first reaction is being upset. You work hard for something. You sacrifice so much. I know Silvio’s family, where she (De Sousa's mom) lives. If you saw where she lived right now (Angola), that article would really make you upset because he is going through what he is going through to pursue his dreams and take care of his family, take care of his mom. He is doing it the right way. For people to take that away from him and away from me, it is crazy.”
Of KU, Falmagne said: “Coach Self is not about that (paying players). That is one of the things I really appreciate about him. He is, like ‘Coaches are gonna offer you this. What I'm going to say is I am not going to jeopardize my livelihood for that. I can guarantee you if he really wants to be an NBA player, I can make him NBA. It’s going to take a lot of work from him, but I can get him there. That’s when his reward is going to come. Right now is not the time for it.’ I was like, ‘Wow, Coach Brown was right about this guy.' That’s when we went over there (to visit KU).’’’