KU forward Silvio De Sousa: ‘It feels great just to be back’

Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa shoots a selfie with camper Mikey Barton during a Washburn University basketball camp on Tuesday, June 4, 2019 at Lee Arena in Topeka.

Topeka — During a question-and-answer session with a wide-eyed bunch of Washburn University basketball campers on Wednesday afternoon at Lee Arena, Kansas forward Silvio De Sousa was asked one simple question: What emoji do you use the most?

De Sousa’s answer was fitting.

“I like the smiley face,” the 6-foot-9 junior from Angola said with a grin.

That emoji, at times, and De Sousa’s general outlook on life that matches it, played a big part in helping the junior forward endure more than a year’s worth of uncertainty with his eligibility while the NCAA reviewed his status in the wake of the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball.

After months of review and weeks of wading through the appeals process, De Sousa’s saga ended a couple of weeks ago, when the NCAA reduced his suspension from two years to one, making him eligible for the 2019-20 season.

Wednesday, De Sousa spoke publicly for the first time about his status and he did so with a smile.

“The minute I found out, the one thing I felt was just like a really heavy thing that came off my shoulders,” De Sousa said. “It felt great. I was just happy. I couldn’t even be more happy.”

De Sousa found out the news from his lawyer, Scott Tompsett, who actually had a little fun with delivering the verdict.

“He told me to go home because it might take a while,” De Sousa recalled of the time, just before noon, on May 24. “And I was going home and he called me back and said, ‘Silvio, you forgot something.’ And I went back and that was it. … The first few days it was hard to believe. I had to get used to it. It was actually true.”

In addition to celebrating the news with his family and teammates, De Sousa has spent the past several days refocusing his mind on how to move forward.

He said he never doubted that he would be cleared, saying simply, “the truth always comes out and it finally did,” and added that he was eternally grateful for all of the support he received along the way, from friends, family, coaches and strangers alike.

“I can’t thank them enough,” De Sousa said. “They’ve been here behind me since Day 1. They’ve always shown support and love and it means a lot to me.”

Throughout the wait, De Sousa checked in with his coaches on a daily basis to see if there was any news about his status and his appeal. While he sat on pins and needles, his mother, Janina, back in his native Angola, was even more anxious.

In an interview in April about his appeal of the NCAA suspension, De Sousa said he tried to shield his mother from his day-to-day reality and sought dozens of other topics to talk about when the two were on the phone.

This time around, De Sousa could not wait to share the news with Janina and wasted no time telling her.

“The day I told her, she was so happy,” he said. “I could see she was more excited than I am.”

While waiting for the final ruling from the NCAA, De Sousa tossed his name into the NBA draft pool and started the process of working out for pro teams in case taking that step became necessary. He worked out for five NBA teams during the month of May and said he did not hesitate to pull his name out of the draft when he was cleared.

“I believe in myself,” he said. “And I was sure that I would be drafted. But I just wanted to play (at KU) so bad and make people realize who I am and get a better spot for next year’s draft.”

So that’s where his focus will be for the next few months, as KU moves into summer classes, summer workouts and preseason practices and conditioning.

Because of his experience in helping the Jayhawks reach the 2018 Final Four, when De Sousa played big roles in both the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments, the expectations are high for what he can bring to the team.

But as he did while waiting for word from the NCAA, De Sousa said he expects to operate the same way he has throughout his time at Kansas.

“Right now I’m just focusing on trying to get my shots better, my 15 footers, jump shots and just kind of trying to figure out and learn what should I play, what should I bring to the team next year,” he said Wednesday. “That’s pretty much my main focus right now.”

And that, De Sousa said, is exactly the way he always wanted it to be.

“It feels great just to be back,” he said.

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