KU coach Bill Self on struggling junior Silvio De Sousa: ‘He’s going to be fine’

photo by: Associated Press

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa (22) and center Udoka Azubuike (35) for for a rebound over Chaminade guard Kendall Small (25) and forward Eliet Donley (3) during an NCAA college basketball game Monday, Nov. 25, 2019, in Lahaina, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Marco Garcia)

Although there were signs of life in a couple of games leading up to Maui, Kansas junior Silvio De Sousa found himself back on the bench, struggling with confidence during the Jayhawks’ most recent games.

De Sousa, who played a combined 32 minutes in the two KU victories leading up to last week’s Maui Invitational, played exactly half that many minutes in the Jayhawks’ three victories in Maui.

Eleven of the 16 came in a 30-point blowout of Chaminade in Round 1 on Nov. 25. And the junior forward followed that up by playing just four minutes against BYU and one minute against Dayton in the next two rounds.

Asked on his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show on Tuesday night if he had any kind of plan to carve out more minutes for De Sousa in the coming weeks, Kansas coach Bill Self said cracking the rotation did not work that way.

“I wish there was,” Self said of a plan for more playing time. “But it’s not that complicated. Basketball’s a reactionary game. And when you have to think when you get out there because you’re not quite confident enough, you get slow and you don’t perform to your ability. Silvio’s going through that right now because he’s not as confident. A lot of that is no one’s fault. A lot of that is he’s just going to have to kind of just figure some things out.”

The early portion of De Sousa’s junior season resembles greatly the first month or so of his Kansas career.

After graduating from IMG Academy a semester early and joining the 2017-18 Jayhawks in January, De Sousa was hardly playable.

He played a total of 22 minutes in his first nine games as a Jayhawk, scoring just 5 points and grabbing seven rebounds while committing six turnovers during that time.

Eventually, when the game slowed down and his confidence climbed through better performances in practice, De Sousa flipped the switch and never looked back.

A 10-point, six-rebound effort in 13 minutes in a win over Oklahoma sparked his surge and De Sousa went on to play double-digit minutes in nine of KU’s final 11 games that season.

Whether a similar turnaround is in store for the newly eligible and more experienced De Sousa this time around remains to be seen. But Self is confident that De Sousa has it in him to work through his rough start.

“He’s going to be fine,” Self said. “But if there’s one guy that I know that we can get a lot more out of that we haven’t yet, I would definitely say it’s Silvio. And I mean that from a positive standpoint. … We haven’t played enough situations where you can just leave him out there and (let him) play through a ton of mistakes.”

With a showdown with No. 20 Colorado looming at 6 p.m. Saturday at Allen Fieldhouse and road tests at Villanova and Stanford coming later this month, De Sousa’s opportunity for increased playing time could continue to be a challenge.

Add to that the fact that Self and company now have seen enough evidence to know that the Jayhawks’ four-guard lineups are much more productive than their two-big man looks, and it’s obvious that potential playing time for De Sousa behind starters Udoka Azubuike and David McCormack is more scarce than ever.

Still, Self has not given up on the two-big look or De Sousa.

“There’s no question we’re a better team playing four guards,” Self said. “We know that. I mean, we know that. So it’s not like, ‘Well, what are they doing?’ What we’re trying to do is be the best team we can come March. And we’re not going to be a good team unless we can play two bigs at least a good portion of the time. So we’ll figure it out.”

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