LAWRENCE — Take it from someone who’s covered Silvio De Sousa for nearly four years, Kansas fans: The newest Jayhawk might just be the team’s missing link.
“Silvio is kind of the perfect guy right now, honestly, for what is needed,” said Corey Evans, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals, “so they should be excited.”
De Sousa, a five-star forward in the Class of 2018, has been academically cleared to join the No. 14-ranked Jayhawks (10-2) and will report to campus today when the team reconvenes from holiday break. KU is now working to get the prospect certified through the NCAA’s amateurism process and is hopeful to have that completed before its next contest, an 8 p.m. Friday conference opener at Texas.
If there’s one word Evans circles back to more than any in describing Rivals’ No. 25-ranked prospect, it’s physicality. That too should be music to KU fans’ ears.
“He’s really improved, but more so it’s about I guess the pertinent need for Kansas with what they have down low,” Evans told The Topeka Capital-Journal. “He’s definitely what they need to a T. Physicality is the name of the game with Silvio. He’s 6-foot-8, a bruising athlete, one of the most explosive guys in the 2018 class alone.
“With what Kansas kind of needs, it couldn’t be any more perfect. It’s the ideal marriage.”
De Sousa, Evans said, has always had the body and strength and will arrive on campus looking like he’s been in a college weight room for two or three years. He’s improved most over the last four years in footwork, his jump shot and use of his off hand.
“He’s just not that one-dimensional athlete, not a bully-ball guy,” Evans said. “He’s still athlete-first, but he does have some ball skills to him now.”
Still, Evans acknowledged the transition will be a “giant jump” for De Sousa.
“I think they’ll ease him in,” Evans said. “I think they’ll give him about eight, 10 minutes a game (at first). But as Kansas fans know, there’s such a need in the frontcourt. Honestly, Billy Preston doesn’t answer those questions they have.”
The 6-10 freshman Preston has yet to make his collegiate debut as the program voluntarily withheld him while it sought more information on a vehicle he was driving on campus. KU has completed its end of the process and the decision is now in the NCAA’s hands, coach Bill Self said last week.
“Billy’s a seriously talented ballplayer, but he’s more of a perimeter-based forward, more like a Kelly Oubre type, not your interior guy,” Evans said, “which is why Silvio’s even more important.”
Given the growing pains of recent one-and-done bigs Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo, Evans understands why some Jayhawk fans might be tempering their expectations for De Sousa. But there’s a noteworthy difference in this situation.
“Those guys in the past haven’t kind of acclimated well at Kansas, but they were also kind of relied upon a little more heavily,” Evans said. “I think coach Self is going to kind of make it simple for Silvio — go run the floor, protect the bucket, rebound the basketball. That’s what he does well.
“Point being, those past years, they haven’t had this set of guards where you have four or five experienced guards. They are going to rely on Silvio of course, but it’s going to be a lot simpler tasks.”
Asked for a comparable midseason reinforcement that made a big impact, Evans cited Auburn center Austin Wiley, a five-star prospect who received NCAA clearance last December and joined the Tigers just ahead of SEC play. After a slow start, Wiley’s minutes increased and he finished his freshman campaign averaging 18 minutes, 8.8 points and 4.7 rebounds.
Evans said fans should expect to see more of the nation’s top high school prospects joining their college teams early going forward.
“It’s definitely a trend,” Evans said. “We’re going to see a lot more of this in the future, a lot of guys kind of going the football route of enrolling mid-semester and, unlike football though, playing immediately.”