University of Kansas

Silvio De Sousa is eligible, will play for KU this season after winning NCAA appeal

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa has been cleared to play in the 2019-20 basketball season by the NCAA’s Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement, the organization announced Friday.

De Sousa had his appeal hearing with the NCAA committee on Friday morning and, after the ruling was issued, said he’ll play for KU this season.

“THANK YOU,” De Sousa tweeted on Friday afternoon.

In a release, the NCAA stated that its Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement “determined additional relief was appropriate” in De Sousa’s case.

The NCAA initially ruled on Feb. 1 that De Sousa must sit out the remainder of the 2018-19 basketball season and all of 2019-20 “because his guardian received payment from a university booster and agent and agreed to receive additional funds from the same person.” KU appealed the matter on April 18.

“I’m so excited to be able to come back to Kansas to play and to continue my education,” De Sousa stated in a release issued Friday afternoon. “It’s an amazing feeling. I want to thank the NCAA committee for the opportunity to do what I really want to do. All those days and nights wondering what would happen ... .this makes it all worth it. I also want to thank everyone at Kansas for working so hard to make sure I can follow my dream. Jayhawk Nation, I can’t thank you all enough for the unconditional support and for sticking around throughout this. I tried to turn the year off into a blessing. I got to work on my game and my academics, and now I’m going to make the most of this opportunity.”

KU athletic director Jeff Long said he was, “thrilled by the decision of the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee to reinstate Silvio, “and I am thankful that Silvio has the opportunity to continue his academic work and play basketball for KU. He is an exceptional young man, and I am so happy that he gets to do what he truly wants to do, which is study and play basketball at KU.”

Coach Bill Self, who has frontcourt players on the 2019-20 roster in Udoka Azubuike, David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, now adds a 6-foot-9 reinforcement in De Sousa.

“I am extremely happy for Silvio, and very appreciative of Jeff Long and our athletic department personnel who have worked so hard on this,” Self said Friday. “Our chancellor, school attorneys, Scott Tompsett (De Sousa’s attorney) and David Reed (senior associate athletic director, compliance and student services) have spent so many hours on this matter. Silvio has been unbelievably upbeat and patient throughout this process — far more than I could be if I were in his shoes. And he has been a tremendously positive influence on me, our team and everyone he has touched since getting the initial ruling.

“Silvio is the type of student-athlete that college athletics needs. He wants to be a student and contribute to representing this university on the court. This moment belongs to Silvio and I am proud to be his coach. I know he’ll be more motivated than ever, which will be very exciting for all Jayhawk fans to watch next season.”

De Sousa’s attorney, Tompsett, gave one simple statement to The Star in a phone conversation.

“I’m very happy for Silvio. The NCAA got it right,” Tompsett said.

On April 19, in an interview with The Star, Tompsett noted, “In all my years doing this work it is perhaps the strongest case I’ve ever seen in what I’ll call the equities. This is a young man who is completely and totally innocent.”

KU assistant basketball coach Kurtis Townsend said he learned the news while on a golf outing with his dad in California where Townsend is on vacation. Self also was out of town on vacation. KU commencement was Sunday; summer school begins June 4.

“This is great. We’re really happy for Silvio,” Townsend said. “We are excited to have him. He’ll make our team better. We got better today for sure. Silvio gives us a lot more depth inside. We have some of the best post guys for sure.”

Townsend said he was most happy for De Sousa.

“He’s a great kid,” Townsend said. “He really deserves it. He handled it as well as anybody could handle it.”

De Sousa, who has declared for the NBA Draft, had stated publicly that if his suspension was lifted by the NCAA’s Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement, he would opt to return to KU for his junior season next year. De Sousa has until May 29 to officially take his name out of the NBA Draft.

In February, the NCAA stated in a release that “according to the facts provided for purposes of the reinstatement request, 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.” KU Athletics has an apparel sponsorship contract with Adidas.

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, Fenny Falmagne. Gassnola said he sent the money in an envelope inside a magazine, so De Sousa could pay for online classes.

Gassnola testified that he also originally offered Falmagne $20,000 to help him get out of a previous arrangement with a Maryland booster, who was paying Falmagne $60,000 with the expectation being that De Sousa would attend Maryland. Gassnola testified that he had discussed previous payments with then-Adidas executive Jim Gatto before making them.

Falmagne told The Star he did receive $2,500 in cash in the mail. He told The Star it was not apparent who sent the money. He told The Star he gave the money to charity — a church in Florida. Falmagne said the NCAA was aware of this and has receipts of the transaction that he provided to the organization.

He said it was not true that he agreed to accept $20,000 for securing De Sousa’s enrollment at Kansas.

“That did not happen. There’s nothing there,” Falmagne told The Star.

De Sousa appeared in 20 of 23 games in 2017-18, when KU made the Final Four, before sitting out last season.

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Gary Bedore covers all aspects of Kansas basketball for The Star — the current team as well as former players and coaches and recruiting. He attended KU and was born and raised in Chicago, as well as Lisle, Ill.
Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.