Silvio De Sousa has had one of the most interrupted college basketball careers in recent memory. And yet it still feels like he’s being enabled.
The off-again, on-again Kansas power forward was suspended 12 games Wednesday by the Big 12 Conference for his stool-wielding role as the primary provocateur in the Jayhawks’ disturbing, bench-clearing melee with rival Kansas State Tuesday night. Teammate David McCormack was suspended for two games; Kansas State players James Love and Antonio Gordon were docked eight and three games, respectively.
If the video weren’t so chaotic and difficult to analyze, at least another half-dozen players could have been suspended for their roles. Everyone who stepped into the fray or threw a punch or kicked someone on the ground, on both teams, got off easy.
It was a disgraceful affair that spilled into fan seating areas, knocking some to the ground and putting them in harms way, raising the specter of a truly awful outcome. And De Sousa became the face of it all when he raised a stool over his head in a potentially calamitous moment of anger, only to have it fortuitously knocked out of his hands.
If De Sousa hits someone with that stool, he never plays college basketball again and possibly faces an assault and battery charge. As it is, he’s lucky to still be wearing a Kansas uniform at all. The Big 12 is giving him the opportunity to return for the final game of the regular season (at Texas Tech) and he will be available for all of the postseason. While the 6'9", 240-pound junior is just a role player this season, every role counts for a team with legitimate national championship aspirations.
That’s a benevolent ruling by a league that is dominated during basketball season by the powerhouse program in Lawrence. And we all know the craven Kansas administration and head coach weren’t going to step up and add anything to the Big 12 sanctions.
So the off-again, on-again power forward gets another break.
By the end of his suspension, De Sousa will have played in 37 Kansas games and missed 55, with 52 of those absences coming via various rulings. He missed the first four conference games at Kansas after arriving midseason 2017-18 from IMG Academy, waiting to be cleared by the NCAA—a delay which irked Jayhawks coach Bill Self. Then he missed all 36 last year as part of a two-year NCAA suspension for his guardian accepting money from Adidas bag man T.J. Gassnola, a revelation that came out of the FBI investigation of corruption college basketball. The second half of that suspension was lifted on appeal and De Sousa returned to action this season, only to go WWE crazy against the Wildcats.
Given a second chance many weren’t sure he deserved—there was an argument to be made that De Sousa should have been reinstated to play anywhere but Kansas—this is what he did with it.
There was a lot of chippy behavior at the end of a blowout Kansas win—the Wildcats stealing the ball in the final seconds, De Sousa giving chase and blocking a layup. But what escalated the affair at that point was De Sousa standing over the top of the player he blocked, the kind of thing that draws a technical foul if the game weren’t over.
K-State then responded with a multi-player rush at De Sousa, and the brawl was on. When he picked up the stool, the entire stupid episode had its defining image.
De Sousa was widely portrayed as a naive pawn in the pay-for-play scheme that was orchestrated around him—and which took him away from an anticipated commitment to Maryland in the 11th hour. There was nothing naive about his actions Tuesday night. Kansas went to extreme efforts to get him on campus, then to get him eligible, then to mount an appeal—but the school didn’t make him act like an idiot against Kansas State. That much, the 21-year-old accomplished on his own.
(Editor's Note: Shortly after this story was published, Silvio De Sousa issued an apology statement on his Twitter account.)
This was another bad headline for Kansas, which seems remarkably unconcerned about whatever reputational damage it has incurred in the past 28 months.
The Jayhawks were steeped in the FBI investigation, with damning text exchanges between Gassnola and Self being introduced as evidence at the federal trial, plus wiretap transcripts that implicated assistant coach Kurtis Townsend in his recruitment of Zion Williamson. Both men are still coaching.
They had multiple players declared ineligible by the NCAA for schemes involving Gassnola. Billy Preston never played, and you know the De Sousa saga. There also was an ASM Sports agency paper trail involving the family of former Jayhawk Josh Jackson allegedly receiving money from aspiring agent Christian Dawkins.
Kansas claimed to be victimized by Adidas, then signed a massive new contract with the shoe and apparel company. Kansas was hit with an NCAA Notice of Allegations that included major charges, and responded defiantly. Kansas staged a season-opening fan extravaganza in Allen Fieldhouse that included Snoop Dogg firing off a counterfeit money cannon and exotic dancers on stripper poles, what for all the world looked like an orchestrated middle finger aimed at the NCAA (Self and athletic director Jeff Long did get around to apologizing).
And now the same Allen Fieldhouse was the scene for the worst college basketball fight anyone has seen in many years. With a guy who received a second chance playing the starring role in the mayhem.
Now he’ll get a third chance.
If Kansas winds up winning it all this season—which is certainly within the realm of possibility—you can expect the photoshopping to follow quickly. Instead of the Jayhawks onstage holding the trophy overhead, expect to see it replaced by Silvio De Sousa holding that stool up like a weapon. He isn’t going away for good—but neither is that image.