Former Kansas standout Silvio De Sousa has been to the NCAA Tournament and told his new Chattanooga teammates just how much fun playing in the postseason can be.
Now the Mocs are about the find out firsthand for themselves.
For De Sousa, it has been a tumultuous trek back to the tournament. He is a big reason the 13th-seeded Mocs will be playing No. 4 seed Illinois on Friday night in Pittsburgh in the South Region, and he is also a big reason why the Jayhawks are still in NCAA limbo.
“I think the very first practice I remember saying in the locker room, ‘You think playing ball is fun? Just make it to the NCAA Tournament, you’ll have a lot more fun,'” De Sousa recalled telling his Chattanooga teammates. “I just hope they will get to enjoy it, and just have the fun I once told them about. It's a great experience.”
It's taken De Sousa some time to get here again.
His recruitment to Kansas was part of a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball tying Kansas, Arizona and Louisville among others to possible NCAA violations.
The Kansas case is among a handful still making its way through the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP), created out of proposals from the commission led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2018 to reform the sport.
The 6-foot-9 forward made headlines in January 2020 for his part in a brawl late in Kansas' 81-60 over Kansas State. De Sousa sent DaJuan Gordon sprawling and stood over him, triggering both benches to empty. De Sousa picked up a stool at one point and held it over his head before an assistant grabbed it away.
After the long, winding road, De Sousa graduated from Kansas last May. In July, he decided to continue playing at Chattanooga, a Southern Conference program with its own proud NCAA Tournament history.
This is the Mocs' 12th NCAA Tournament berth and first since 2016. Kansas also is back in a customary spot as a No. 1 seed for the first time since 2018, this time in the Midwest Region. The only way De Sousa would face his former team would be if Chattanooga gets to its first Final Four.
Self is happy for De Sousa.
The coach told The Associated Press recently that he texted with De Sousa after Chattanooga won the Southern Conference Tournament championship in overtime. De Sousa scored 17 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the title game after averaging 11.1 points a game this season.
“It was so good to see him end on a high note and have a good taste in his mouth leaving college basketball as opposed to not having that if he didn't get to,” Self said.
Chattanooga coach Lamont Paris is happy to have De Sousa on his roster.
Paris has a team capable of pulling off an upset — or two — in the tourney.
He was an assistant coach at Wisconsin, where he was part of two Final Four teams, including the 2015 national runners-up, before getting his first head coaching job with the Mocs in 2017.
Paris recruited guard David Jean-Baptiste, who hit the game-winning 3 in overtime to clinch this NCAA berth.
Jean-Baptiste joined guard Malachi Smith in testing their NBA draft stock last summer before returning to Chattanooga in early July. De Sousa announced his transfer to Chattanooga less than two weeks later. They are the team's leading scorers and helped the Mocs win the Southern Conference's regular season title.
Paris said adding the conference tournament title to the Mocs' regular season crown is the success he dreamed about having at Chattanooga.
And De Sousa is a big part of that success.
“This net is a byproduct of getting all those other things right,” Paris said. "The right kids, the right culture, getting the city into it, the community on top of it. If you get all those things, nets can’t help but happen at some point. That’s what my vision was, and we got the right people on the boat in order to make it happen.”
AP Basketball Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report.
More AP coverage of March Madness: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness and https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25