When Silvio De Sousa arrived at Chattanooga after playing four years at Kansas, he didn’t know what to expect.
Chattanooga, which has made the NCAA Tournament just three times in the last 25 years and once in the last decade, needed a spark to ignite its culture of being a perennial league title contender and NCAA Tournament participant. It offered De Sousa a chance at a much needed fresh start, and it’s been a perfect marriage of the two so far.
Mocs coach Lamont Paris said going to the transfer portal to build the program back to prominence was not part of the initial plan and referred to former boxing champion Mike Tyson’s quotation “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
Chattanooga saw many players transfer over the first couple of years of Paris’ tenure, and the team finished below .500 in each of his first two years. After consecutive winning seasons, the Mocs are 21-5 this year and 11-2 in the Southern Conference. The marked improvement is thanks in large part to the addition of De Sousa, one of the bigger transfers into the league in quite some time.
No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the SoCon
Chattanooga and Furman will face off for a second time this season Saturday afternoon at Timmons Arena in Greenville, S.C, at 2 p.m. EST.
In the first clash between the two title favorites, Chattanooga played without second-leading scorer David-Jean Baptiste. It was De Sousa’s fast start that helped the Mocs dictate the tone for the rest of the game as they held on for a 71-69 win on Jan. 15.
“I knew coming out it was going to take me having a big game for us to get what we wanted out of the day,” De Sousa said. “[Paris] told me before the game that I have to set the tone because I believe in my teammates and they also believe in me to come out with the energy so they can get going. I have to lead in this way because we are missing one of our starters and that could make everything much more difficult, so I felt like somebody; everybody has to step up.”
He enters the contest against Furman having started all 22 contests he has played in this season. He ranks third on the team in scoring (11.5 points per game) and leads the Mocs in both rebounding (6.9) and blocks (1.2).
However, De Sousa was sidelined with an abdominal injury for the last three games but is expected to be back for Saturday’s showdown with Furman.
The Mocs, who will be playing their fourth game in eight days, coasted to a 65-47 win over Western Carolina this past Wednesday to avenge an early-season loss.
A unique journey and a different sport
ɪ ᴅᴏ ᴛʜɪs ғᴏʀ ᴀ ᴄᴀᴜsᴇ & ɴᴏᴛ ᴛʜᴇ ᴀᴘᴘʟᴀᴜsᴇ pic.twitter.com/FYaClYppAE— Silvio De Sousa ™ (@SilvioDeSousa5) January 9, 2022
De Sousa grew up in the war-torn nation of Angola, where the threat of the outbreak of civil war was never that far away, even after the nation declared its independence in 1975.
Angola is a soccer nation, which is the sport De Sousa loved before discovering basketball.
“The kids in every neighborhood would play [soccer] from dawn until sundown, and that’s all we wanted to do,” De Sousa said. “I learned a lot of the footwork necessary to being a big man in basketball from my time playing soccer.”
His mother launched his basketball career by signing him up for the team. Once he hit the basketball court, he saw his skills in soccer translate to the new sport.
Finding a home and an identity
Chattanooga has given De Sousa a home far away from home in a sense. The community embraced him with open arms after coming to the Scenic City with plenty of unknowns.
He wanted to be known as a person rather than just a big-time basketball star. The surrounding city and fanbase has offered a nice change of pace for the graduate student.
“There’s a feeling of when guys go from a power five to a mid-major that like this is not where I should be or I should be somewhere else,” he said. “But I figured out that it’s a good place ... Chattanooga and the people and the SoCon, and the competitiveness of it ... I might have never known if I wouldn’t have tried ... We are having a great year so far, so it’s made this whole experience better than I could have imagined.”
Though De Sousa has spent just one season in the Scenic, his legacy won’t be determined of how this season finishes, but rather, his legacy will more be remembered for his joyful presence off the basketball hardwood. It’s a testament to the big personality this young man has. That’s the mark of a true winner.