Silvio De Sousa arrived at Kansas City International Airport about 10:40 p.m. on Tuesday, not exactly prepared for the difference between Kansas and Florida weather this time of year.
“He got off the plane. He was wearing shorts last night,” Kansas coach Bill Self said with a smile on Wednesday afternoon. Self was referring to the 6-foot-9, 230-pound recent IMG Academy graduate who practiced with the Jayhawks for the first time at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, four hours after taking his physical exam at Watkins Memorial Health Center on KU’s campus.
“I texted him yesterday afternoon,” Self said. “He didn’t respond before he left (the Bradenton, Fla., school) to go to the airport. I said, ‘Hey dude, it’s cold,’” Self added, noting De Sousa “may have had one (winter coat) packed in his bags.”
De Sousa — who is coming off a stellar three-game performance at the Chick-fil-A national tournament in which he was named most outstanding player — was eager to take his physical and begin his college career, Self stated.
“He’s a great kid. They took him to Watkins this morning at 7:15. I said, ‘Bill (Cowgill, KU trainer), how was he?’’’ Self said. “He (Cowgill) said he walked up to everybody and said, ‘Hi I’m Silvio. How’s your day? I hope you have a great day today.’’’
Self said, “no, not really,” when asked if the big man “looked good” at his first KU practice. “No,” he added when asked if De Sousa knew what he was doing yet on the court. “We were working on Texas stuff. He didn’t get a chance to do much. Tonight we’ll practice man-to-man and our principles and he’ll pick some stuff up tonight.
“Today we are hopefully letting him catch his breath a little bit. He gets here at midnight, then it’s 7 o’clock and he’s already doing appointments. He still has to get a bank account open, silly things, so he has a place to put his money (monthly college stipend). We’ve got several things to do.”
Now that De Sousa is on campus and practicing, the obvious question is: When will he play in a game?
Self said it won’t be in the Big 12 opener at Texas (8 p.m., Friday) because De Sousa likely won’t be cleared by the NCAA by then and also the fact, that even if cleared, he’s not prepared for college game action.
“It depends on amateurism stuff,” Self said of the NCAA looking into the amateurism process of the athlete as it does all incoming athletes. “I’d like to be able to say within a week, but I don’t know that to be a fact. We are kind of at the mercy of them (NCAA) right now.”
Self was unable to provide many details except that KU accepted De Sousa into the university for second semester classes on Friday and informed the NCAA of that fact.
“I haven’t talked to anybody. Take that back. At 8:01 (Wednesday) I called the NCAA offices and there was a recording saying, ‘Happy Holidays,’” Self said. “I don’t think they report back until Jan. 2 (to work on his being cleared).
“He can’t help us right away. That’s OK. He can’t play right away. I’m hopeful if a week from now or so he can be cleared, that would give him at least a week we could run some base stuff. It’s going to take him two weeks at least to get to the point he can get out there even if we just simplify two out-of-bounds plays, two side out-of-bounds plays, a couple zone plays, a couple man plays, how we guard ball screens. Even if we just do that it will still take a couple weeks.”
As far as De Sousa’s conditioning: “He played 30 minutes three games in a row last week, (but) his conditioning is not going to be close to what it needs to be,” Self said.
“We’re not going to be as good as we can be until February,” Self added. “Let’s write it down there. If we can buy as much time now, keep getting better but knowing down the road we could be quite a bit better if things work out with Billy (Preston) obviously and when Silvio gets cleared it will be a couple weeks even after those guys get cleared we’ll start seeing a difference I think.”
KU is also awaiting word from the NCAA regarding freshman forward Preston, who has not played in a game this season. KU compliance has looked into the financial picture involving a car Preston has been driving this semester. Presumably the NCAA is examining KU’s findings.
“I feel much better in at least getting somewhat of an answer even if it’s not a definitive one on what our next step will be with him soon,” Self said of Preston. “I do feel comfortable with that. Hopefully we’ll hear something soon, our people will (hear something soon).”
Self sounds like he’s ready to play two bigs and three guards rather than use a four-guard lineup as soon as he can.
“We need to be playing five guards in three spots more than five guards in four spots to be honest,” Self said. “If you’ve got guys on the perimeter not producing the way you hoped they could or creating havoc to get to the free-throw line … look at what we are not good at. Would a big make a difference in those areas? The answer would be absolutely yes. Our rebound margin is average. We’re not protecting the rim as well as we should. We’re not getting to the line as often. When you play four guards it’s hard to do that. I think it (two bigs in lineup) would help.”
Svi on De Sousa
KU senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk described the play of De Sousa at Wednesday morning’s practice. “He’s big, athletic,” Mykhailiuk said. “I’d say he’s like Doke (Azubuike) but a little shorter. He needs to try hard, do what he does, just listen to coach, listen to what coach wants from him. If he does the little things, goes for loose balls, he’ll do fine.”
Happy birthday to coach
Self, who is now in his 15th season as KU coach, celebrated his 55th birthday on Wednesday.
“Growing up, you’d get the good stuff at Christmas, the bicycle and mitt for Christmas. You’d get socks for the birthday,” Self joked. “After this year there should be no celebrations whatever moving forward.”