Sunday, October 25, 2015

On second thought, Arizona prep Mitch Lightfoot taps KU

Gilbert Christian High's Mitch Lightfoot slams against Arcadia in the Div. II basketball championship game on March 2, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. Lightfoot committed to Kansas University on Saturday.

Gilbert Christian High's Mitch Lightfoot slams against Arcadia in the Div. II basketball championship game on March 2, 2015, in Glendale, Ariz. Lightfoot committed to Kansas University on Saturday.


Mitch Lightfoot, who committed to the University of New Mexico his sophomore year of high school, decided to re-open his recruitment last spring after averaging 17.9 points and 9.7 rebounds for state-champion Gilbert (Arizona) Christian High.

Nothing against the Lobos, but the 6-foot-9, 210-pound Lightfoot suddenly realized his continued improvement in basketball had opened up the possibility of fulfilling a lifelong dream.

“My sights have always been on Kansas,” Lightfoot said Saturday after orally committing to KU in a ceremony at the Arizona Preps Fall Showcase event in Glendale, Arizona.

The rabid KU fan — he was born in Kansas City, Missouri, and lived there until he was 6, when his family headed to Tucson — sought out help in getting noticed by the Jayhawks.

“I met with my coach (after decommitting),” Lightfoot said of Arizona Power AAU coach John Ortega, “and he said, ‘What do you want out of this?’

“I said, ‘I want to play at Kansas.’ It’s been my goal since I knew what basketball was, ever since then. I’ve been working my butt off to try to get there. To all the kids sitting in the stands watching the Jayhawks, wanting to be a Jayhawk, you can definitely do it,” Lightfoot, the No. 117-rated player in the recruiting Class of 2016 (by, added.

Ortega said that, after speaking with Lightfoot, he phoned recruiting analyst Jerry Mullen, who contacted KU about Lightfoot’s interest.

“Forty minutes later, I get a call, and coach Roberts (Norm, KU) is asking about our practice times. They were going to take a private jet to see a workout. That was a Monday. On Wednesday, coach Roberts saw Mitch work out and was blown away by the workout. Two days later, coach (Bill) Self called to offer him. Mitch came over and said, ‘Kansas just offered.’ It was a dream-come-true-type moment,’” Ortega said.

A great student who has qualified for admission to Stanford, Lightfoot wanted to make his NCAA-allotted five visits — to KU, St. John’s, Stanford, Arizona and Utah — before officially telling Self he’d accepted his offer earlier this week.

“I took all these visits. I was going to go where I felt comfortable. That was Kansas, by far,” Lightfoot said. “I felt like I was at home there, and it is home. Everyone in Kansas ... Jayhawk fans are a big family. It’s important to me to be part of a big family organization. It’s why I want to be there.”

Lightfoot — he also grew up a Chiefs fan (“We had season tickets for 20 years”) and Royals fan (“I watched the game last night”) — will have a batch of blood relatives at his KU games.

“Aunts, uncles, cousins, everyone,” he said. “I have tons of family there (in KC).”

He attended games in Allen Fieldhouse as a toddler, but most of his memories of KU are from those he watched on TV.

“Obviously, Mario and the shot ... that’s pretty amazing. It can’t get much better than that,” Lightfoot said of Mario Chalmers hitting the shot that forced overtime in KU’s win over Memphis in the 2008 NCAA title game. “I love watching Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey, those guys more than any one particular moment.”

Lightfoot said he can play small forward or power forward at KU — “Wherever the coaches need me; they’ve won the national championship they have a little more expertise than I do on the subject,” he said — he figures to bring non-stop motion onto the court.

“In my 16 years as coach, he’s the toughest competitor I’ve had,” Ortega said, noting Lightfoot has been compared to Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker. “He works endlessly. He is in the gym all the time, has the (shooting) machine up. He has the biggest motor. He plays with a fire. He wants it.”

Of his style of play, Lightfoot said: “I want to play the game like it’s supposed to be played, full speed, not taking any plays off. Be the best I can be on the court by working the hardest. It’s an intangible that works to my benefit.”


Len Shaffer 7 years, 1 month ago

Welcome, Mitch! You sound like a perfect Jayhawk type of player!

Steve Zimmerman 7 years, 1 month ago

I wasn't that excited looking at the body, I was like, boy... another Chenowith. Lightfoot would be eaten alive by Bam and the like. But you know what, Lightfoot can play just about anybody his size. His ferocious plays show more volume than what he appears. This kid has big heart, too. He is a lion on the court. He's lighter and quicker version of Withey.

Brett McCabe 7 years, 1 month ago

Infectious attitude. Gotta like him!

I'll trust Norm and Bill's player evaluation skills over a recruiting web-site every day of the week.

Kent Richardson 7 years, 1 month ago

"He's been compared to Sam Dekker," Probably one person said this and it's been parroted by various sources repeatedly this week.

I'm looking for a recruit who "reminds me of Jordan in Shaq's body." Did you see that Dickie V? Rico Gathers just bounced off him like a minor annoyance.

It may be like Withey and the endless "volleyball" comments. Or Olajuwon and his soccer goalie background.

On second thought if he has an impact like these guys at KU .......

Marius Rowlanski 7 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, I've heard the Dekker comparisons also. Dekker really put together a fantastic Sr. year jumping from 97th to a 5 Star recruit on all the major rankings.

Not saying it will or won't happen but I'd be happy so see him move up to a solid 4 Star.

A few other facts: Dekker was named 2012 Wisconsin Mr. Basketball, the Wisconsin Gatorade Player of the Year, Parade All-American, AP First Team All-State, and a 2012 McDonald’s All-American nominee who participated in both the All-American Championship and the Basketball Classic.

Gavin Fritton 7 years, 1 month ago

I have nothing negative to say about recruiting this young man. If Bill Self wants him and if Arizona feels compelled to go after him, that is more than good enough for me. I trust Bill Self implicitly. If Bill Self wants come thing for the Jayhawks, I want him to get whatever it is. So no flaming, please.

But my question is this: Am I missing something? Is he likely to move up in the rankings when they're finalized at the end of the year? Something else? Because what I keep seeing and hearing is that the young man is a three-star recruit. Which, that's very nice, don't get me wrong, but he wasn't exactly getting looks from Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina. This feels to me a little bit like Arizona had to try to lock him down to protect their turf, KU had a little of that working, Stanford? Well, good luck finding a kid who can ball at that level AND has the grades, so yes, they'd love vet to have him. But that leaves Utah and St. John's and, again, no disrespect intended, but are we really competing with them?

Again, look, I'm sure I'm going to love this young man. He's wanted to play for KU his whole life, so I already have something in common with him. But I am just wondering if there is something here that the recruiting analysts are missing? Is this a situation as with Thomas Robinson where Bill Self sees a piece of clay he can mold? Is there development possibility or do we see what get?

Joe Joseph 7 years, 1 month ago

It's pretty simple.

Here's a kid, who is 6'9, has some skill, some hustle, and wants to play for KU. Kansas returns just two front-court players next year, Landon Lucas and Carlton Bragg, who are both likely gone - Lucas for sure - after next year. Self needs a guy who's going to be around for a few.

Marius Rowlanski 7 years, 1 month ago

Where is Lucas going? Also, we have a player named Coleby who will have 2 more years of eligibility.

Shannon Gustafson 7 years, 1 month ago

Lucas will be a senior and graduate after next year (not this year) so he'll be going to play overseas, or move on to a non-basketball career.

Marius Rowlanski 7 years, 1 month ago

I must be getting old. I swore that he redshirted. What a mistake that would have been for him to do if he planned on playing in Europe next year.

Shannon Gustafson 7 years, 1 month ago

He did redshirt his first season. Last year he was a redshirt Soph, this year he'll be a Jr, next year he'll be a Senior, then he'll head off to Europe or away from BBall.

Marius Rowlanski 7 years, 1 month ago

Man...sorry. Reading is fundamental. I'm sticking w/age as my excuse.

Kent Richardson 7 years, 1 month ago

I like this recruit, if for no other reason than, he may be a 4 year player with high skills.

Your take that "are we really competing with them" is valid. We are among the elite programs according to pundits. This said we get a top 20 recruit about every year but it doesn't seem we have as many McDonald's AA on our roster as the Dukes, NC's and Kentucky's.

What do I know about recruiting, especially these days? Not much for sure.

How did Wisconsin win the NCAA tourney? I see a report that says cheese is as addictive as smack. Pitino is probably thinking " I could have brought in a wheel of Colby-Jack instead of paying out $500 a pop." This also might explain why Scott Walker's campaign was spending $95,000 a day. If you are a cheese addict, (Curd Head) and to avoid the spread of constipation we have set up free clinics that will provide sterile crackers. Testimonials at CA "I started out on mild cheddar but quickly moved to extra sharp."

Suzi Marshall 7 years, 1 month ago

Signing Lightfoot is a feel good story. The kids apparently has good work ethics and is bright who intends on majoring in ChemE. I hope he's ready for the realities and challenges that Kansas Basketball and ChemE will bring. Both are far from easy and a kids dream can quickly turn to nightmares when going up against OAD bigs and PChem's Schrodinger Equations. Both are formable obsticles that require skill and determination to master. Having gone through PChem and seeing uncles what the players go through, I hope he can pull it off.

It would be awesome having bigs like Bragg and Lightfoot. Assuming Bragg comes back next year, I'm thinking those two should do some kind of rendition together for Late Night ...perhaps "somewhere over the rainbow."

Glen Miller 7 years, 1 month ago

He is the 117th ranked player in the country out of thousands. I am quite sure he has the skills to contribute to our orogram in a posite way. Anybody remeber Mason..... he wasn't ranked in the top 100 either. I trust our coaching staff and their evealuations. Not every player recruited can be a one and done. We need quality kids that can ball and this kid seems like he is a good get. The rankings aren't final yet either folks. Word is he is on the upswing. He still could be a top 100 player by the time it is all said and done. Calm down and just trust our staff, they've given us 11 straight big 12 championships and two final fours.... I think some of you forget that when you start paying too much attention to rankings.

Bryce Landon 7 years, 1 month ago

Welcome to Kansas, Mitch! We'll be glad to have you!

Marius Rowlanski 7 years, 1 month ago

And then there was Diallo

Kentucky Freshman Skal Labissiere Cleared by NCAA, Kansas’ Cheick Diallo Still Waiting


Jay Beakum 7 years, 1 month ago

Gavin Fritton, Diallo had St. John's on his final list too. Besides he never showed interest in Kentucky or North Carolina. (And to be honest, why would he. He's a great student.) once he improved enough to receive top shelf offers it was clear where he wanted to go. You think Cal is going to put effort into recruiting a kid he knows he will be rejected by?

This kid didn't break the recruiting machine because he was always going to Kansas.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.