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.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

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.”