LAWRENCE — The education of Silvio De Sousa at Kansas began the moment the Jayhawks’ newest player stepped off the plane.
This lesson, though, had nothing to do with basketball.
De Sousa, the 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward and five-star prospect who last Friday received academic clearance to join KU early and immediately begin practicing with the team, made his long-awaited arrival Tuesday night. While he’s been preparing for this moment for months, the top-tier recruit out of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., wasn’t ready for one aspect upon landing at KCI.
“He got off the plane and he was wearing shorts,” KU coach Bill Self said Wednesday. “I texted him (Tuesday) afternoon and he didn’t respond before he left to go to the airport. I said, ‘Hey dude, it’s cold.’ ”
It’s the first of what will likely be many teachable moments for the blue-chip prospect.
De Sousa completed an early morning physical Wednesday and later participated in his first two KU practices. Self doesn’t expect the frontcourt weapon to be cleared for in-game action before the No. 11-ranked Jayhawks’ next contest, an 8 p.m. Friday conference opener at Texas, but he is hopeful De Sousa will be cleared shortly after the NCAA office’s Jan. 2 return from holiday break.
“He can’t help us right away, but that’s OK — he can’t play right away,” Self said. “I’m hopeful that in a week or so if he can be cleared then that would give him at least a week where we can run some base stuff.”
Even if the team simplifies a number of those base packages — two out of bounds plays, two side out of bounds plays, a couple zone plays and a pair of man-to-man plays, Self said, in addition to an understanding of how the team guards ball screens — it will still take De Sousa “a couple of weeks” to get to the point where he “can be out there.”
“Certainly we’re not going to be as good as we can be though until February,” Self said. “I mean, let’s just write it down there. If we can buy as much time now and keep getting better but knowing down the road we can be quite a bit better if things work out with Billy (Preston) and when Silvio gets cleared, it’s going to be a couple weeks even after those guys get cleared that we’ll start seeing a difference.”
As Self said last week, KU is no longer in control of what happens to Preston, the yet-to-debut freshman forward indefinitely withheld as the university sought a clearer financial picture of a vehicle he was driving on campus. KU’s compliance department has completed its part of the fact-gathering process and that information has been sent to the NCAA for review.
“I feel much better in getting at least somewhat of an answer, even if it’s not a definitive one, on what our next step is with (Preston) soon,” Self said. “I do feel comfortable with that. Hopefully we’ll hear something soon, our people will.”
If KU does indeed have both De Sousa and Preston fully integrated by early February, expect the team to play big a lot more.
The Jayhawks (10-2) have yet to stray from the four-guard lineup as the team only has two scholarship frontcourt players — 7-foot center Udoka Azubuike and 6-8 forward Mitch Lightfoot — in its active rotation. KU, Self said, isn’t getting to the free throw line as often as it should, isn’t rebounding to his liking and isn’t protecting the rim as well at it needs to, all aspects De Sousa and Preston should theoretically improve.
“You know, we need to be playing five guards in three spots more than playing five guards in four spots, to be honest,” Self said. “Now, if a couple guys on the perimeter start playing a little better (that could change), but if you’ve got guys in the perimeter that really aren’t producing the way you hoped they could or creating havoc or getting to the free throw line and stuff like that, you look at what we’re really not very good at so far, then would a big make a difference in those areas? And the answer would be absolutely yes.”
Regardless, in the case of both players, Self admitted KU is “kind of at the mercy” of the NCAA right now, a situation which he is eager to see play out sooner rather than later.
“I’m kind of interested in the unknown too because the (De Sousa) amateurism stuff, we don’t know on the date,” Self said. “Certainly with Billy there’s a lot of unknowns. It’s tiring though, never knowing what your team’s gonna look like.”