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Sunday, June 3, 2018

KU forward Mitch Lightfoot bulks up to better fit in with bigger KU basketball roster

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) works for position with Seton Hall center Angel Delgado (31) and Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) during the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) works for position with Seton Hall center Angel Delgado (31) and Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) during the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

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Up 16 pounds from his playing weight at the end of the 2017-18 season, Kansas junior Mitch Lightfoot, said Sunday that, with all of the beef on this year’s KU basketball roster, getting bigger was not just the goal but also necessary for him to fit in.

“We’ve got some big boys on this team,” Lightfoot said at the end of Sunday’s autograph and registration session for Week 1 of Bill Self basketball camp. “So you just have to keep getting bigger and keep getting stronger.”

Although junior center Udoka Azubuike, the biggest of the KU big men, had not yet made it back to campus for the start of summer school and summer workouts — Azubuike was expected in sometime Sunday night — there was plenty of evidence of all of those big bodies Lightfoot was talking about surrounding him.

Freshman David McCormack and his 6-foot-10, 260-pound frame was there. As was Silvio De Sousa, who played at 6-9, 245 last season and looked a little thicker than that on Sunday.

“It’s good for the fans, and it’s good for us, too,” said Lightfoot of all of that depth inside, which also includes likely starter Dedric Lawson, who stands 6-9, 230. “We get to get back to how coach Self plays. With more big guys you have more options. We can play two bigs at a time more.”

It’s been a while since the Jayhawks have been able to do that with any regularity, and Lightfoot, who said he could envision playing some at the 3 this season instead of jumping up and playing the 5 like he had to last season, said he was looking forward to the possibilities.

“Yeah, it’d be nice to get back to my actual position,” he said. “But obviously, doing whatever coach Self needs me to do for the team to win is the position I’m trying to be in. But 3, 4, 5, any of those spots is where I’ll try to do some damage.”

Although Lightfoot’s focus so far this offseason has been on adding muscle, he’s eager to see how KU strength coach Andrea Hudy reacts to the work he put in during the past few weeks back home in Arizona.

“I weighed in before I left home at 225,” he said. “But that wasn’t on coach Hudy’s scale, though.”

In order to get there, Lightfoot has been eating six meals a day, downing protein shakes like refreshing summer drinks and loading up on other types of protein every chance he gets.

“I feel like this summer, for me, it’s obviously understood that being bigger is a big thing for me and this team,” he said. “Coach has been on us about getting bigger and focusing on our bodies and changing them and coach Hudy’s been doing that with us and been doing a great job.

“Eating a lot more; that’s the best exercise. If you want to get bigger, you’ve got to eat a lot. I don’t know calories, but I just know it’s six meals a day that are all probably the same size as any meal you guys are getting.”

Leading by example in that area is just another way Lightfoot hopes to take on a leadership role for the 2018-19 Jayhawks, one that he believes he’s been prepping for during his first two seasons in Lawrence.

“Honestly, I think it all starts today,” he said. “All the guys are together for the first time and it’s the beginning of a journey to hopefully another Final Four and hopefully a national championship. That’s the goal and today’s the day that we all start getting to know each other and get going.”

“It’s kind of different than last year because a bunch of that team was returners. This team is a whole new fit and we’re going to get to know each other and hopefully mesh as a team. You look back at last season, it was great, but we’re still knocking on the door and we have to, as coach would say, beat that door down.”

Comments

Brett McCabe 2 months, 2 weeks ago

There is a lot to like about this kid. Here's hoping that the positive attitude and hard work really bring a payoff to him and the team this season.

Sandeep Kalburgie 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Any news on Silvio? Is he eligible to play?

Matt Tait 2 months, 2 weeks ago

There hasn't been any news and likely won't be for quite some time, if ever. Because of that fact, the coaching staff and team is moving forward as if Silvio is simply another player returning for his sophomore season and ready to roll. No reason to operate differently as of today.

Craig Carson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I still think KU shouldnt play Silvio..i just think its too risky to play a kid that they KNOW could have some eligibility issues..KU really needs to press the NCAA to either clear him AGAIN no matter what the FBI findings are or at least get clearance to play him until they know his status and NOT have to vacate any games he played in prior to any NCAA ruling..I just would rather watch them season and NOT have the thought in the back of my head "wow, they look good this year and Silvio is a stud....i wonder if any of these games are even gonna matter in a few months" but thats just me..i know a lot of people think KU should play Silvio no matter what

Joe Ross 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Entirely correct, Craig. And we'd be lucky if after all of this we don't get our Final Four appearance and conference streak (14th season) vacated because of the Silvio situation.

Can't take chances putting him on the floor. Especially since many projections have Kansas as a FF team this upcoming season.

Craig Carson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Im confident that KU wont have to vacate any games form last season as long as they dont become directly implicated..with so many schools involved, I cant see the NCAA uniformally punishing them all the same..BUT, thats sill not 100%..I just think its not fair to Silvio to not fully know and its not fair for KU to have to make the choice to play him and risk losing games or sit a talented big man that can help the team and DESERVES to help the team

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 2 weeks ago

unfortunately I doubt that "what's fair to Silvio" is very high on the NCAAs priority llist. But hopefully KU can get a the NCAA to make a decision on Silvio prior to the start of play in November. It would be hard to justify playing him without having a statement from the NCAA declaring that he remains eligible for competition. Especially considering that KU has repeatedly used caution in regards to keeping players out of competition if their eligibility is in question.

Craig Carson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

and i hope KU uses that same caution with him in this situation

Brian Leslie 2 months, 2 weeks ago

The NCAA DID finally get word to Brian Bowen, who was the Louisville recruit that ended up toppling Pitino, Jurich, and two assistant coaches -- but it was that he definitely wouldn't be eligible for 2018-19 and possibly beyond. I'm hoping that there is something special about the Bowen case (such as his personally being in on the cash scheme) that doesn't apply to Silvio (who certainly seemed in the dark about already having been payola steered to Maryland). In general, the Brian Bowen precedent and the Condi Rice committee don't bode well.

Joe Ross 2 months, 2 weeks ago

If you take the Derrick Rose situation, Memphis was not directly implicated. They still had their FF appearance vacated.

Brian Leslie 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Agreed on Rose, but Memphis was not directly implicated only because the NCAA doesn't have subpoena power and Rose refused to talk. Rose flew to Detroit, WorldWideWes's hometown, to "take" the SAT. I think the NCAA knew that of course Memphis coaches were in on that, and their harsh sentence reflects that - they just couldn't officially rule that. That was also a unique case in that Calipari was given the heads-up on the test discrepancy and chose to play Rose anyway. Silvio's case is different - we have the FBI directly saying that KU was out of the loop, and Self hasn't played him after the announcement. If you directly flout the NCAA, as Memphis did, and hide behind lack of subpoena power, the NCAA will be harsh if they can.

We are also in a "are you going to burn the whole damn thing down" situation with so many teams implicated.

Craig Carson 2 months, 2 weeks ago

@Brian..I kinda said that same thing..I cant see the NCAA uniformly punishing every school the same because you know every school involved is gonna fight to avoid vacating wins and any post season bans

Robert Brock 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Drinking protein shakes helps you lose weight, Mitch.

John Strayer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Probably not when they are consumed between six meals a day. Now if one or two were in place of a meal...different story.

Aaron Paisley 2 months, 2 weeks ago

He's not drinking them as meal replacements, he's drinking them in addition to his 6 meals a day.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 2 weeks ago

this sarcasm was evidently not as obvious as Brock had thought

Harlan Hobbs 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Mitch is a coach's dream. He's 100% committed to his team and whatever his coaches want him to do. Regardless of how much he plays, he will be an emotional leader for the team.

Joe Ross 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I think you're right, Harlan.

I mean if you look at depth in the post now, Mitch has a lot of competition. But he brings the experience factor in games for the Kansas offense, which only puts him behind Udoka Azubuike. I imagine that while some of the newcomers are coming along Mitch might play more and then see his minutes decline as others gain experience. At that point, he will be a great mentor from the bench, offering tutorials and emotional support. And what a luxury to have in case the rotation gets bitten by the injury bug.

Great kid. Great player. Heart of a champion.

Marius Rowlanski 2 months, 1 week ago

When I first saw Lightfoot, I didn't have many expectations. I certainly didn't see him playing pivotal roles so early in his career. I still think redshirting a year would benefit him if he decides to make a professional career playing basketball.

But whatever Mitch decides to do after Kansas, I'm certain that he will be successful as long as he brings that same desire demonstrated on and off the court at Kansas.

Kansas seems to be blessed with having a 'Mitch Lightfoot' on the team throughout the Williams/Self years. It just goes to show how far commitment and heart can take you.

Karen Mansfield-Stewart 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Mitch is such a great guy. Glad he's a Jayhawk. However, I think he'd be better off red shirting this year - if Silvio plays.

Dirk Medema 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Silvio credited Mitch's mentorship with getting him ready last year. He'll continue to be a leader regardless of how many minutes he plays.

While Coach's comments to the guys to get bigger and stronger is an appropriate general comment the size on this team would seem to make it less important this year than in the past. I'd much rather see him become lighter quicker and lights out from the arc. That's more of what this team needs.

Marius Rowlanski 2 months, 1 week ago

IDK about Mitch losing weight or ever shooting lights out from the three. One great scrimmage isn't nearly enough evidence to expect any great improvement.

Mitch is probably a favorite among Jayhawk fans, including me, and gives 100% effort seemingly every time he steps on the court. I'd like to see him bulk up even more and to establish a midrange shot. His defense is already well developed but the extra weight will help him as a rim protector and rebounder.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Here is a guy who is willing to do everything within his control in order to beat the other guys out for PT, and when he doesn't he will be the best teammate from the bench that he can be.

I don't think that a redshirt is in his future. I think that JRoss is right. He will play early and often. Bill Self loves to use a guy like Lightfoot in order to light a fire for 5* players like McCormack, De Sousa, Dedric, and Dok. Probably come January his PT will decrease to spot minutes based on matchups, but up until then he might average 15+ mpg.

Dok and Dedric should be the starting bigs all year long barring injury, but don't be surprised in November to see Lightfoot get up off the bench quickly if either guy makes a lazy play or picks up two early fouls.

Brian Leslie 2 months, 2 weeks ago

If you look at how the roster is going to play out, having Lightfoot around in 2020-21 to provide leadership (this time of summer, for example) is a unique advantage. Garrett and Robinson are the other two guys on last year's team who are likely to still be around (not bad choices for leadership, it has to be said). Jeff Hawkins redshirting is a pretty good comparison - he helped to stabilize a very young Rush/Chalmers/Wright team.

As it is, even if SDS doesn't play, we're going to have trouble getting both McCormack and KJ rotation minutes, and they are GOOD. If SDS does play, I don't see Lightfoot getting minutes except as the figurative victory cigar in blowouts. I think Mitch sees that too if he's talking about playing the 3.

Harlan Hobbs 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Agree totally with all of you. On paper, KU certainly has more "bigs" this year that perhaps are more talented than Mitch. However, when the heart gets into the equation, all bets are off.

The best thing is that not only will Mitch get better, but he will make the others better too. That's a hallmark of a true leader.

Mitch has a long successful life in front of him in whatever fields of endeavor he chooses.

Jeff Coffman 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Mitch played the 5 most of the year, which is not his position. If he cover the 3 as he infers, he will have some PT. Having 3 players 6'10" or bigger would cause some miss matches especially if Lightfoot hits 34%+ from 3.

Brian Leslie 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Mitch doesn't have the footspeed or ballhandling or man defense to play the 3 at KU. Can you imagine him fighting over screens 22 feet from the basket, or getting switched onto a shooting or point guard? Mitch would give best effort, but that's not his role at a KU. I agree that he has a wing's size, but the reason he was moved to the group of bigs is because he lacks the talent to be a wing at KU (and he has some hops to somewhat compensate for lack of size and is not afraid of contact). Grimes / Garrett / KJ have the wing covered for the upcoming season - even Dedric out there if we want to go Kentucky-sized big. Realistically, it's going to be a 4 "smalls" rotation with Dotson / Robinson / Grimes / Garrett, and maybe KJ getting some minutes.

Mitch is a somewhat interesting bench player at the 4, although maybe not this next season. But the 3? Please.

Tony Bandle 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Right now, Mitch is a luxury based on Silvio being available all season, however, if Silvio is suspended a semester or just not allowed to come back at all, Mitch suddenly becomes a key role player so his working to strengthen and bulk up may be critical to the rotation for '18-'19 as well as paying dividends for his final season as well even though we may have to keep a red shirt option as a possibility based on the flow of front line personal over the next couple of seasons.

WHEW!!! That's the longest single sentence I have ever posted on this site....and I'm not sure i said anything that made sense!

Brian Leslie 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Dedric, KJ, and McCormack all probably would have started at KU this last season -- certainly either of the Lawsons. (Not sure if you can start McCormack and Doke together.) People keep forgetting KJ, but he played at the 4 at Memphis and in his one full season finished 3rd in the AAC in rebounding and was conference newcomer of the year. KJ is a fluid athlete who can score from all 3 levels, he is a good passer, and he is a long-limbed defender and instinctive rebounder. If you translate the stats, he would have been KU's best rebounder last year!

KJ is the best "4th big" we've had in quite a while... if SDS plays, the best 5th big maybe ever (we had that ridiculous depth with Aldrich, Morris 1 & 2, TRob and Withey -- but 4th-year-in-college KJ is way better than sophomore-break-eligible Jeff Withey).

That's not to say that Lightfoot can't be the 5th 'break glass in emergency big," but even without SDS, there is a rationale for him redshirting.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 2 weeks ago

Brian, you make some good points about why Mitch would be wise to accept a redshirt season this year, and I have no doubt that staying at KU for a 5th year would give him the best chance to flourish here, but I have my doubts that a player coming into his 3rd year at KU after playing key minutes as a sophomore is going to sit a year due to a lack of PT.

Bill Self loves to have experienced players and having a guy like Mitch available to him. Self may give him the option to take a redshirt this year in favor of being a major contributor in years 4 and 5, and he may take that route. But I won't believe it till I see him on the bench in November not dressed out to play.

Mike Greer 2 months, 2 weeks ago

I like Mitch, I think he's a great asset to the team, but we've seen better players than him not make it into the NBA, so why would he redshirt? I really don't think it's going to change his NBA prospects. He's a four year player, he might as well get whatever playing time he can and get his degree. He's a bright kid, might as well start his life after four years.

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