Silvio De Sousa’s mom, Janina, and dad, Jean Jacques, eagerly answered a video call from their son on Monday night.
“I was just telling them, ‘You guys need to figure out a way to get your stuff ready to leave,’ ’’ De Sousa said Tuesday, informing his parents that he had the money to fly them from their home in Luanda, Angola, to San Antonio, Texas, for the upcoming Final Four, which Silvio will be participating in with the Kansas Jayhawks.
“At first they thought I was playing. But longer in the conversation they started to believe I was telling the truth.”
De Sousa relayed details to his loved ones regarding an NCAA program that pays up to $3,000 total in airfare, hotel and meal expenses for family members of players who compete in the Final Four semifinal games on Saturday, but do not advance to the championship on Monday.
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The NCAA pays up to $4,000 in expenses for parents of athletes who participate in the title contest.
“I guess everything’s ready. They’re going crazy right now,” De Sousa said, noting he’ll be seeing his parents for the first time since last summer, when he returned to Angola for a vacation.
His father, who works for the basketball federation in Angola, has been in the United States before — Silvio played for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., before heading to KU — but this will mark his mother's first trip to the U.S. She works for the Angola government. Silvio’s three sisters, Aline (14), Luisa (12) and Alicia (6), will not be able to attend.
“Coach (Bill Self) told us on the bus on our way back here (from Omaha, Neb., where KU beat Duke on Sunday in the Elite Eight). He said, ‘The NCAA’s doing some stuff for you guys so that your parents can come to come watch you play in the Final Four.' I just thought it was crazy,” said De Sousa, who indicated his dad regularly watches KU games online in Angola.
Kansas sophomore Udoka Azubuike, who like De Sousa hails from Africa, is working with KU officials to make arrangements for his mom, Florence, to fly to Texas from Delta, Nigeria.
“That would be nice. She has always dreamed about coming over here. She has never seen me play before,” said Azubuike, who also has a host family in Jacksonville, Fla., where he played for Potter’s House Christian Academy.
Self explained a possible roadblock to Florence’s attending the Final Four during Tuesday's Final Four media availability at Allen Fieldhouse.
“We're trying to get Udoka's mother to come here, but we're having some visa complications,” Self said. “The thing about it is everybody is working hard.
"Our staff is talking with all the proper political people to try to make something like that happen because we know how much that would mean to Udoka and his mother to be able to witness — can you imagine a parent coming over here who has never seen a basketball game, a real basketball game like this, and that's the first time you see your son play? That would be just an unbelievable experience. We're hoping that’s the case.”
Senior Svi Mykhailiuk’s parents, Inna and Iurri, who are teachers in Cherkasy, Ukraine, will be making the trip to the Final Four. They were most recently in the U.S. for KU’s Senior Night.
“It’s great they give money to players so parents can travel for free — pay for hotels and stuff,” Mykhailiuk said. “I sent money so they actually can buy a ticket to come here.”
Thanks to the NCAA fund, Devonté Graham’s sister, Shamaria, will be able to travel from Raleigh, N.C., to San Antonio with mom, Dewanna, and grandmom, Doris. Shamaria had been unable to attend the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games in Omaha because of finances.
“She texted me she was excited, congratulations and she’ll see me this weekend,” Devonté Graham said of his sister. “She knew she’d be coming. We just knew we had to win.”
Freshman Marcus Garrett was able to defray expenses for his mom, Latania, and uncle, Matthew, who will make the short drive from Dallas to San Antonio.
“It’ll make it least expensive,” Garrett said of the NCAA stipend. “It’s great they can watch me play knowing we were watching the Final Four last year on television. It’s exactly what he (Matthew) told me after the (Elite Eight) game: ‘We were watching the Final Four last year and now you get to play in the game.’ ”
Meanwhile, KU coach Self was happy to report his mom, Margaret, and dad, Bill Sr., are planning on attending the Final Four. Bill Sr. has had some health issues.
“He’s going to travel to San Antonio. That’ll be good. That’ll be good,” KU coach Self stated.
Of the NCAA’s paying expenses of athletes, Self said: “It is a great rule change (implemented in 2015), and it's going to take so much pressure off of so many families, because I never knew that San Antonio was the most expensive place in America to fly into, but it is right now. I mean, it is. I mean, tickets, you can't get down there round trip for less than $1,000 or $1,200 here from Kansas City. Can you imagine what it will be like coming from Lagos or the Ukraine or from some of these other places or from Angola?”
Mykhailiuk scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for his first career double double in Sunday’s 85-81 Elite Eight win over Duke. The 6-foot-8 guard also effectively guarded 6-11 forward Marvin Bagley, who hit 5-of-9 shots en route to 16 points with 10 rebounds.
“I think that’s the best player in my college career I played against. He’s probably a top-three pick (in the 2018 NBA Draft),” Mykhailiuk said. “He’s a great player.”
Self said this year’s KU team is proof that some squads do “peak at the right time.”
“This is like night and day. This is like, ‘Hey we went from a pretty good team to a really good team in a short amount of time,’ ’’ Self exclaimed. “I guess when fans talk about they want their teams peaking at the right time, this would be the one example since I've been here that we can actually show that.”
KU assistant coach Jerrance Howard posted his 9-year-old son, Jerrance Jr.’s, scouting report of Duke, on Instagram. Junior, better known as “Jay Jay” wrote about the importance of rebounds — KU outrebounded Duke, 47-32 — and also gave advice on slowing Bagley, Grayson Allen and Trevon Duval.
“I actually saw a little bit. I couldn't blow it up on my phone, so I couldn't really read all of it, even with my glasses on,” Self joked of Jay Jay’s scouting. “He was right on point. I think that we should have Jay Jay actually doing more of the scout than his dad after reading it. I said, he's better. But I thought it was pretty cute. It was done I guess three months ago, so I guess he had a little foresight into what was getting ready to happen.”