Silvio De Sousa never gave up hope that he’d wear his No. 22 University of Kansas basketball jersey in an actual game during his sophomore season at KU.
“We were expecting him to play tomorrow. The kid has been bringing his jersey (on trips) the past couple of games: ‘Maybe today is the day they’ll play me.’ It is what was supposed to happen,” Fenny Falmagne, guardian and mentor of De Sousa, told The Star on Friday.
Not only will De Sousa, a 6-foot-9, 245-pound sophomore from Angola — who has been practicing all season while being held out of games — not play Saturday against Texas Tech, but he will miss the rest of the season as well as the next.
The NCAA on Friday declared De Sousa ineligible until the 2020-21 season “because his guardian received payment from a university booster and agent and agreed to receive additional funds from the same person.”
That guardian — Falmagne — strongly disagreed with the punishment levied and explained his stance in an interview with The Star.
“This is bullcrap. It’s like (NCAA officials said), ‘Oh we came to that conclusion. What proof do we have? It’s something we heard from court,’’’ Falmagne said. “You heard that from someone who is going to be in jail for some time. ... That’s why they are punishing a kid? That is pitiful. That’s terrible.
“For them to turn around and talk about, ‘Oh he (De Sousa) is going to get up to two years (suspension) because Gassnola said in court he (Falmagne) was going to get $20,000?’ C’mon. This is all bullcrap. It’s ridiculous. The NCAA should be ashamed of itself.”
During a federal trial regarding corruption into college basketball last fall, former Adidas representative T.J. Gassnola testified that sometime before January 2018 he overnighted a $2,500 payment to De Sousa’s legal guardian, Falmagne. Gassnola said he sent the money in an envelope inside a magazine so De Sousa could pay for online classes.
Gassnola pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud last year and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors before giving his testimony. He is scheduled to be sentenced in March.
In announcing its decision Friday, the NCAA said that “according to the facts provided for purposes of the reinstatement request (that KU made after declaring De Sousa ineligible about two weeks ago), De Sousa’s guardian received payment of $2,500 from an agent and booster of the school. He agreed to accept additional payment of $20,000 from the same individual and an Adidas employee for securing De Sousa’s enrollment at Kansas.”
Falmagne addressed the charges in his interview with The Star.
First, regarding the $2,500, Falmagne said he did indeed receive that money.
“It came in the mail, in cash,” Falmagne said. “It was in an envelope with a receipt for a car repair. It was a different name, not him (Gassnola).”
Falmagne said the $2,500 had nothing to do with online classes. He said De Sousa did not need to take such classes to be eligible at KU.
“All I asked from him was for used (basketball) gear,” Falmagne said of Gassnola.
Falmagne explained that one day he asked KU officials what they did with the team’s practice jerseys, game jerseys and shoes from past seasons. He said he was hoping to acquire such used gear to ship to Angola, De Sousa’s home country, to donate to youths. KU officials, he said, informed him they could not provide used gear from past seasons as it was against NCAA rules.
Falmagne said he was encouraged to check with Nike officials who, Falmagne said, told him they did not really have used gear to donate. He said he then contacted Gassnola of Adidas, who Falmagne said “never got back to us” about possibly donating gear.
Falmagne said he took the $2,500 that arrived in the mail and donated it to a church in Florida. Falmagne said he’s provided proof to the NCAA he donated the money and he said he’s also provided the NCAA bank statements of himself and De Sousa.
“They (NCAA officials) have all the proof in the world about the $2,500. They know what happened — $2,500 has nothing to do with it. And they are talking about $20,000? This is all B.S. What is this about? C’mon it’s crazy,” Falmagne said.
Of receiving the $2,500 in the mail allegedly unannounced, Falmagne told The Star: “I was not going to deny that, although there’s no proof of that the way he sent it, but I know that happened.”
Falmagne said it was not true that he agreed to accept a $20,000 payment to secure De Sousa’s enrollment at Kansas.
“They’ve got bank accounts from Silvio. They’ve got bank accounts from me. They have everything that shows nobody took advantage of anybody,” Falmagne said. “I have a bunch of other kids here in the U.S. (from overseas) … they are not in trouble with the NCAA. I never got money from anybody else.
“Bruno went to Maryland, I never got anything,” he added of De Sousa’s close friend, Bruno Fernando, also from Angola. Falmagne is also a mentor of Fernando. “All of a sudden I’m going to wake up one day and ask for $20,000 or whatever the amount is to talk to Adidas? It makes zero sense.”
Falmagne said indirect proof that he’s done nothing wrong is the fact the FBI does not appear interested in speaking with him.
“There’s a reason why the FBI didn’t come knock on my door asking questions. The NCAA has nothing,” Falmagne said. “I know they have nothing because I know what happened, nothing.
“They (FBI agents) never talked to me. There was nothing to talk about. What is there to talk about? There’s nothing to talk about.”
Falmagne said De Sousa has not decided whether he’ll remain at KU during the school’s appeal or turn pro.
“We don’t know yet,” Falmagne said. “We are really going to have to do something here because the kid didn’t do anything wrong. We are going to talk to the people at KU, Silvio’s attorney and go from there.”
He did offer his reason the NCAA may have hit De Sousa hard.
“The bottom line is they have a problem with KU. The way they did things in the past … whatever has happened, they are trying to take it out on the poor kid that has nothing to do with it,” Falmagne said. “He can’t be punished for anything that’s happened in the past or for whatever reason the NCAA is trying to punish them (KU). That is what’s going on here. They are trying to get back to KU and taking it out on this kid. It shouldn’t be like that. The kid has nothing to do with it.”
The NCAA does not comment on individual cases. Gassnola was unavailable for comment.
Falmagne’s bottom line?
“This kid has come to practice every day with a smile on his face not knowing if he was going to play. Every day, the whole season he came to practice with a smile in his face and to the games with a smile on his face. They are talking about $20,000? Does anybody stop to think he went to Kansas because he loves Kansas?” Falmagne said.