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He Will, He Won't, He Might 2018: Mitch Lightfoot

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Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) delivers on a lob jam from Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) before Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) delivers on a lob jam from Kansas guard Devonte' Graham (4) before Seton Hall guard Myles Powell (13) late in the second half, Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Wichita, Kan. by Nick Krug

Yesterday we took a look at Kansas senior Lagerald Vick’s He Will, He Won’t, He Might predictions and today we’re going to move on down the seniority chart to the junior class.

Mitch Lightfoot, Udoka Azubuike and Dedric Lawson are this year’s juniors, providing support for Vick in the way of both leadership and production on the floor.

While Azubuike and Lawson are both likely starters and figure to vie for a handful of different postseason honors, Lightfoot’s role is a little more uncertain.

By now, everyone who has watched Kansas during the past couple of seasons knows what Lightfoot is all about — he’s tough, smart, selfless and willing to celebrate and scrum whenever necessary.

But your junior season is generally the one where you turn the corner in terms of production and it remains to be seen if (a) Lightfoot will get the opportunity to do that and (b) if he’ll succeed if he does.

With that in mind, here’s a quick look at a few predictions for the Jayhawk who goes by — or at least is called — nicknames such as Martini Room Mitch and Prison Mitch.

He Will – Continue to shoot open 3-pointers

Look, just because Lightfoot added muscle in the offseason and is noticeably bigger and stronger heading into his third season with the Jayhawks that does not mean he’s going to play solely inside.

The added beef and bulk was put on so he can hold up better when he’s in there, but Lightfoot also has worked extremely hard on his jump shot during the past couple of offseasons and he’s not about to let that work go to waste.

For one, Lightfoot’s shot actually looks pretty darn good whenever he lets it fly. And, for two, because of the abundance of other weapons, inside and out, on the floor for Kansas this season, Lightfoot figures to continue to find himself wide open behind the arc from time to time.

Him pulling the trigger will never be KU’s first option. But in those shot-clock-is-winding-down or rhythm type of moments, Mitch definitely has the confidence to step into his shot like he’s Devonte’ Graham or Svi Mykhailiuk.

I said the confidence. I didn’t say the green light.

Of the 123 career field goals Lightfoot has attempted, 20 of them have come from behind the 3-point line. That’s 16 percent. And of those 20 he has attempted, the junior forward has drained eight, making him a 40 percent 3-point shooter in limited opportunity.

I’ll take Mitch at a 10-for-18 clip this year, which will raise his overall percentage from 40 to 47.

He Won’t – Redshirt

There’s no doubt that Lightfoot is one of the most obvious candidates to redshirt if the Jayhawks go that route this season. I’m just not sure they will.

I know Lightfoot would be OK with it if that’s what the coaches want him to do and believe is best for both him and the team, but I also know Mitch wants to play and is always ready and willing.

A quick glance at fan expectations for the upcoming season produces the belief from many that David McCormack will play a lot and be an absolutely monster. I definitely think the latter is dead on, but I’m not so sure how many minutes he’ll get. Especially early.

By the end of the season, McCormack easily could be a 20-minutes-a-night kind of guy. But early on, I think Lightfoot could get half of those minutes and play a valuable role for Kansas while McCormack adjusts to the college game.

Lightfoot’s also a pretty decent insurance policy for Silvio De Sousa should the sophomore forward be deemed ineligible at any point this season as a result of the investigation into corruption in college basketball.

We’ll get into it more elsewhere, but, from where I sit today, I think it’s going to be awfully tough for someone to tell De Sousa he can’t play and such a move likely would have to come from inside the program since the NCAA might not get to act in any way, shape or form until sometime next year.

Time will tell how that shakes out, but the uncertainty around it makes Lightfoot an even more valuable roster piece.

He Might – Log as many minutes at the 3 as he does at the 4

All right. After talking all that noise about Lightfoot getting bigger and getting some of McCormack’s minutes and everything else big-man related, it’s time to look at another possible path to playing time for the 6-foot-8 junior from Gilbert, Ariz. — the 3.

Although Lightfoot is way more likely to play a stretch 4 role than major minutes at the 3 — mostly because Self likes having another ball handler at the 3 and Lightfoot is not that — it is possible that certain matchups or scenarios could inspire Self to go big and put two guards on the floor with three bigs.

A lot of the time, that would mean De Sousa, Dedric Lawson and Udoka Azubuike, but if they do it enough, there could be a role for Lightfoot in there, too.

I’m not counting on this one being right. And this is definitely among the more bold He Will, He Won’t, He Might predictions you’ll see this season. But that improved jumper, Mitch’s underrated athleticism and his willingness to learn and play whatever role is asked make this at least a possibility.

After all, no one would have envisioned Lightfoot playing the 5 when he first enrolled at KU, but he’s done that a little already. So why not go the other way, which actually is more in line with keeping him closer to his natural position.

He Will, He Won't, He Might 2018:

• Senior guard Lagerald Vick

Comments

Steve Zimmerman 6 months ago

hmm.. interesting. You didn't mention his blocking/D. I hope he will continue to be active around the rim especially challenging shots and altering shots. I expect the staff and Mitch have worked on his defensive stance, pick n roll, dunks, other than just looking at his 3pt shooting. Essentially, those are the areas he should improve on if he wants to go to the next level.

Robert Brock 6 months ago

Can you imagine Lightfoot defending a 3? I can’t.

James Miller 6 months ago

Yes, I can actually see him crowding 3 point shooters; and if they go by him on the bounce, I can see him affecting their shots from behind. You cannot deny his hustle and sneaky athleticism.

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