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Saturday, November 2, 2019

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot plans to redshirt 2019-20 season

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) comes over the top of Fort Hays State forward Jared Vitztum (21) while fighting for a ball during the first half, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) comes over the top of Fort Hays State forward Jared Vitztum (21) while fighting for a ball during the first half, Thursday, Oct. 24, 2019 at Allen Fieldhouse.

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After playing sparingly in two exhibition victories, Kansas senior Mitch Lightfoot has decided to redshirt the 2019-20 season.

“Mitch and I visited on Friday and he’s 100% on board with redshirting this year,” KU coach Bill Self said Saturday at halftime of the KU-K-State football game. “This was Mitch’s idea and I totally support it and believe it’s in everyone’s best interest.”

Lightfoot, a 6-foot-8 forward from Gilbert, Ariz., has appeared in 97 games for the Jayhawks during his first three seasons in Lawrence. But with three healthy big men ahead of him in the rotation, the opportunity for playing time during the upcoming season appears to be limited.

After talking with Lightfoot and his family, Self and his reserve forward agreed that sitting out the season and preserving his final year of eligibility for the 2020-21 campaign, when more playing time is likely to be available, was the best move for Lightfoot’s future.

“I feel a little bit differently about this one than maybe some,” Self said recently. “Because if we were just trying to have the best team and prepare for the worst, if somebody got hurt or something this season, then we’d play Mitch. But I love having him around so much that I think he deserves an opportunity to have a chance to start. And his best opportunity would be next year. Not saying it will happen, but it would be next year, when probably some of these guys are no longer around.”

With Udoka Azubuike healthy, Silvio De Sousa eligible and David McCormack improving as fast as anyone on the roster, the already-crowded Kansas front court could become even more difficult to crack if Self elects to play small ball for large chunks of the season.

With three long and strong freshmen having the potential to play the 4 spot and junior Marcus Garrett already experienced in that position as well, the trio of Azubuike, De Sousa and McCormack could find themselves rotating at the 5 at times, with KU playing lineups with just one true big man.

That’s not to say Lightfoot couldn’t play. But the opportunity for meaningful minutes just might not be there.

“I do think he’s improving at a rate that I think he will really be a good player whenever we decide to end his eligibility,” Self said of Lightfoot, who coaches have said loves KU as much as any player they’ve ever had come through the program. “He’s actually played really well and would deserve an opportunity to play minutes, there’s no question.”

True to his team-first nature, Lightfoot figures to continue to play an important role on this year’s team, even if the plan is for him to not record a single statistic. He still will practice with the team, providing a savvy and experienced presence on the scout team for those other big men to battle with, and he will bring his energy and cult hero persona to the bench on game nights, home and away.

“Mitch will do whatever’s best for the program,” Self said Saturday. “We’re all excited about the season and Mitch will play a huge role in our success because he’s actually a big guy who’ll be on the (scout team) that now guys have to guard away from the basket. That’ll be good practice for him, to develop his game, and certainly it’ll be good for us, too.”

Lightfoot, who is set to graduate in December with a degree in economics, is now in line to get started on a three-semester Masters program. Self believes the future is as bright as can be for Lightfoot, both as a KU basketball player and beyond.

“Well, he’s a great teammate first and foremost and he’s a high-energy guy,” Self said recently on “Hawk Talk,” when assessing the Lightfoot situation. “The way I would look at things, if you’e looking at intangibles or qualities to hire, I’d want somebody that would pump energy into an environment and not suck the energy out, and Mitch is an energy giver. Regardless of what’s going on, he’s ridiculously positive, he’s very coachable and he’s an others-first guy.

“Those are qualities that I think would make any business or team or program better. I don’t think you can ever have enough of that. So he’ll do well for whatever he wants to do. But I think he’s going to have a chance to go play and make some money for a while as long as he stays healthy.”

Before then, he’ll get to experience life as a Kansas basketball player in two very different ways for two more seasons.

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 2 months, 3 weeks ago

NO, Mitch! But I'm sure you be giving it all the way next year. You play with GUTS already.

Mitch is lightfoot, he can set screen and move his feet rolling just as quick as other bigs (even quicker). He's already shown he's willing to bang and more physical inside (in the last exhibition game, at least). He can do two-hands power dribble and strong move inside. His 3pt stroke is smooth. If only he's got some inside passes/lobs more from his teammates. If only he's got a chance to dribble more. I know, he's too light to be a hi-low poster like Dok or Sousa. For that reason, he's out! I'm looking forward to seeing stronger and quicker Mitch next season.

Brian Skelly 2 months, 3 weeks ago

This makes sense.    Presuming health of the other three, the minutes arent going to be there.    
And he's not going pro (or NBA pro anyway), why not enjoy more time as a Jayhawk?

Remember Relaford and Lucas did this as well.

Im sure he'll end up a key player next year.

Steven Haag 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Mitch will get his degree, enter the transfer portal, and play for another team that will give him meaningful minutes

Cory McCart 2 months, 3 weeks ago

i yell doubt that, steven, but you may be right...

Cory McCart 2 months, 3 weeks ago

i truly doubt that, steven, but you may be right...

Cory McCart 2 months, 3 weeks ago

i truly doubt that, steven, but you may be right...

Tony Bandle 2 months, 3 weeks ago

Well, Cory...I guess you really meant it. :}.

Makes sense from a logical standpoint but I fear reality will set in, Dok will suffer his annual injury, Silvio will need help and Big Mac will regress a little in live play. I predict Mitch will be on the court by Christmas.

Jonathan Allison 2 months, 3 weeks ago

this will be interesting to keep an eye out for.

Dok could get hurt. Can Silvio and Mac play without fouling? Are they ready for the many, many different looks they are going to see offensively and defensively throughout the year?

I tend to think that DMac is poised to exceed expectations and Silvio might be set up for a bit of a struggle.

Silvio comes with incredibly high expectations because he was so critical when he arrived late in the year and contributed to the final four run, but he hasn't faced the reality of playing a full season with opposing teams gameplanning against him.

DMac has a relatively lower bar set for him, and he definitely has the tools to surprise the casual college basketball observer this year.

Barry Weiss 2 months, 3 weeks ago

I see DMac playing alot with under 5 minutes to go and Dok getting the Hack a Dok defense used against KU.

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