LAWRENCE — Silvio De Sousa has been freed.
The NCAA on Friday announced De Sousa, the Jayhawks' rising junior forward, will be eligible to play in the upcoming season, ruling favorably on De Sousa's appeal in a reversal of course from the governing body's February decision to keep him from playing through the 2019-20 campaign. De Sousa, who has been testing the NBA Draft waters, has told reporters he would return to college with a successful appeal.
After weeks of waiting, De Sousa's appeal was heard by the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee on Friday morning. A few short hours later, the group rendered its decision.
"Jayhawk Nation, can't thank you all enough for the unconditional support (and) for sticking around throughout this," De Sousa tweeted shortly after Friday's news broke, adding a pair of heart emojis and a celebratory video.
De Sousa again offered his gratitude in a subsequent news release.
"I'm so excited to be able to come back to Kansas to play and to continue my education. It's an amazing feeling," De Sousa said. "I want to thank the NCAA committee for the opportunity to do what I really want to do. All those days and nights wondering what would happen ... this makes it all worth it. I also want to thank everyone at Kansas for working so hard to make sure I can follow my dream."
The NCAA stated in a news release posted on social media that although "NCAA rules violations" kept De Sousa out for the 2018-19 season, immediate eligibility moving forward is appropriate in the opinion of the Reinstatement Committee, which heard the appeal.
De Sousa’s guardian, Fenny Falmagne, was accused in testimony and documents at college hoops corruption trials last October of accepting improper benefits during De Sousa’s recruiting process, including funds from former Adidas runner T.J. Gassnola. During the original eligibility review, KU labeled Gassnola a booster for the university at the suggestion of the NCAA "only as a hypothetical for the purposes of reinstatement," athletic director Jeff Long said in February.
"I am thrilled by the decision of the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee to reinstate Silvio, and I am thankful that Silvio has the opportunity to continue his academic work and play basketball for KU," Long said Friday. "He is an exceptional young man, and I am so happy that he gets to do what he truly wants to do, which is study and play basketball at KU."
De Sousa sat out the entire 2018-19 season, first in a voluntary move by KU and then as an ineligible player following the NCAA's ruling on Feb. 1.
“I am extremely happy for Silvio, and very appreciative of Jeff Long and our athletic department personnel who have worked so hard on this," KU coach Bill Self said. "Our chancellor, school attorneys, Scott Tompsett (De Sousa's attorney) and David Reed (senior associate athletics director, compliance and student services) have spent so many hours on this matter. Silvio has been unbelievably upbeat and patient throughout this process — far more than I could be if I were in his shoes. And he has been a tremendously positive influence on me, our team and everyone he has touched since getting the initial ruling.
"Silvio is the type of student-athlete that college athletics needs. He wants to be a student and contribute to representing this university on the court. This moment belongs to Silvio and I am proud to be his coach. I know he’ll be more motivated than ever, which will be very exciting for all Jayhawk fans to watch next season."
A 6-foot-9, 245-pounder out of Lunada, Angola, De Sousa averaged four points and 3.7 rebounds in 20 games as a freshman after joining the Jayhawks midway through the 2017-18 season, coming on strong down the stretch to help KU win the Big 12 Tournament and earn a Final Four berth.
"I tried to turn the year off into a blessing," De Sousa said. "I got to work on my game and my academics, and now I'm going to make the most of this opportunity."