Monday, February 5, 2018

KU coach Bill Self hopes adding Mitch Lightfoot’s effort to starting lineup will kick-start Kansas

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) fights for a ball with Oklahoma forward Khadeem Lattin (3) and Oklahoma guard Rashard Odomes (1) during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) fights for a ball with Oklahoma forward Khadeem Lattin (3) and Oklahoma guard Rashard Odomes (1) during the first half at Lloyd Noble Center on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018 in Norman, Oklahoma.


If you ever have wondered what the price is for a lackluster home loss by a program not used to dropping games in its home venue, you now have your answer.

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self on Monday afternoon announced that sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot would start Tuesday's game against TCU at Allen Fieldhouse in place of junior guard Lagerald Vick. And the reasoning behind the move was simple.

“I think we have a couple of guys, starters, that obviously don't try very hard,” said Self, not naming names. “And we're going to make some changes in our lineup — at least one change; (we) don't have a lot of options to do more than that. But it'd be nice to have guys compete and play to their athletic ability and those sorts of things.”

So in goes Lightfoot, who will be making the first start of his career. And out goes Vick, who has been in a wicked slump during recent weeks.

“Mitch certainly deserves the opportunity to play,” said Self of the sophomore who has played in all 23 of KU's games but is averaging just 14 minutes per outing. “He and Svi (Mykhailiuk) and Devonte' (Graham) try harder than anybody else, so we're going to get him out there.”

Self said the move to start Lightfoot likely would be a long-term solution but admitted that he was unsure whether it would be the answer for what ails the 10th-ranked Jayhawks, who enter Tuesday's game with TCU at 18-5 overall and 7-3 in Big 12 play, tied with Texas Tech atop the Big 12 standings.

“I don't know that it fixes it at all,” Self said. “And I'm not predicting unbelievable results from it. But I will predict the guys that start will try harder than the guys who started last game.”

Coincidentally, the game regarded by most as Lightfoot's best of the season came four weeks ago, when Kansas won at TCU behind the strength of Lightfoot's nine points, seven rebounds and six blocks in a season-high 26 minutes.

In this one, Lightfoot will play next to starting center Udoka Azubuike, instead of backing him up, at least as long as the two are able to stay on the floor together.

“Even though we haven't practiced it much, we're going to try to do that and see what happens at least to start the game," Self said. "If Mitch gets one (foul) early and Dok gets one early, even though that doesn't seem like much, (if it happens) at the 15-minute mark now you put yourself in a situation where they have to back each other up the rest of the half.”

The last time Self sent Vick to the bench — just before KU's road win at West Virginia in mid-January — the KU coach said the junior from Memphis responded with one of his best attitude efforts of his career. Whether Vick repeats the feat this time remains to be seen, but Self clearly is hoping for the best.

“It's going to be long-term,” Self said. “So it would be nice if we could get some energy from him off the bench. … You're not going to have great (effort) all 23 games. I know that. But we should be better in those areas than we have been, especially with guys that have been around here and know what it takes to win.”

Lightfoot, though still young, is quickly becoming one of those guys and appears to be the perfect answer for the many issues Self believes his team has struggled with all season.

“We've lost five games this year, and losing games this time of year is not a bad thing,” Self explained. “Everybody across America, with the exception of three schools, (is) losing games and some that are certainly a lot more talented than us. But when you look back to why we've lost some guys, it's been attitude. It's been focus. It's been preparation. It's been selfishness. It's been effort. It's been energy. It's been intensity. It's been competitiveness, or lack thereof.”

And even though adding Lightfoot's 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game is not the equivalent of bringing back Josh Jackson, there are elements of Jackson's game that Lightfoot is closer to replicating than some of his teammates.

“Activity,” Self began, expanding on Lightfoot's strengths. “He actually tries to rebound. He actually tries to block a shot. He'll actually run a guy down in transition and try to make a play. Mitch is going to screw up. We all screw up. But at least he's going to screw up going hard. I know as a staff it's more comforting to know the guys you have out there will try their butts off to do what's best for Kansas and what's best for our team and we know Mitch is always going to do that.

“I tell our guys all the time it's not about winning. Winning's important. If it wasn't important you wouldn't keep score. But it's more about doing things the right way consistently and then the wins and losses take care of themselves and we're too hot and cold in those areas.”


Michael Terry 4 years, 8 months ago

Smart move Coach Self. The energy Lightfoot brings cannot be replicated by others on the roster. Hopefully Silvio can continue to develop and help if either gets in foul trouble.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 8 months ago

As I recall, Larry Brown pulled the plug on Lincoln Minor and replaced him in the starting lineup with Jeff Gueldner in 1988.

Brown said of Minor, "Physically, he's okay. He just doesn't deserve to play right now."

Prior to the change, KU was 13-8 and had looked spotty in a home win over a Colorado team that was last place in the Big Eight. After Brown made the change, Kansas went 14-3 the rest of the way, and, as we all know, captured the NCAA title.

Not that I think this motley crew will win an NCAA title or even get to the Final Four, but a change in the lineup can't hurt.

Len Shaffer 4 years, 8 months ago

The fact that Gueldner hit over 50% of his 3-pointers certainly didn't hurt. I'll never forget his huge shot to win at KSU.

Austin Lopez 4 years, 8 months ago

Just like I said give Vick the Malik Newman treatment!

Dirk Medema 4 years, 8 months ago

The energy brought by Mitch most certainly can be brought by others.

It is a matter of want to during the games as well as before them.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 8 months ago

Dear Lagerald Vick,

You have not only been called out, your manhood has been challenged.

So how are you going to respond to it?

Sincerely, Bryce Landon

Bryce Landon 4 years, 8 months ago

P.S. For God's sake, Lagerald, stop turning your waistband on your shorts inside out. You look like a dork when you do that.

Jonathan Allison 4 years, 8 months ago

100% agree about the waistband. This is why HS girls volleyball/soccer players do. Not KU Men's basketball players.

that said, Vick's lack of energy is a sign to me that he's lost confidence in himself. This can come and go at his age. One good game and he could be back on top of the world. November Vick was pretty awesome, and last year there were people calling for Vick to displace Svi in the starting lineup. My guess is that the coaching staff are continuing to try to pump him back up in practice. "Be aggressive! Keep shooting!" etc. I don't know the kid, but for some reason I get the feeling that he responds best to positive reinforcement.

Dave Miller 4 years, 8 months ago

I wonder if we'll see some zone occasionally to minimize foul trouble for Dok and Mitch before any foul trouble early in the first half? Switch up the defense once in a while to give them different looks, maybe?

David Howell 4 years, 8 months ago

I've been advocating that for some time. Switch it up every so many trips down the court. Once you let the other team get comfortable, they like it and run their offense better .................

John Fitzgerald 4 years, 8 months ago

I think he just misses his partner in crime, Mr. Carlton Bragg.

Thomas Green 4 years, 8 months ago

Had to be done. Should have been done two weeks ago!

Kent Richardson 4 years, 8 months ago

Who else did Bill call out? Udoka or Malik or both?

Can't hurt to try and it's not "short term."

Wonder who comes off the bench, Garrett or Vick?

If it's just a stunt to motivate then Self is backing up his statement about being out of options. Which means we have been validated in our observations.

He is flummoxed and setting up the post season while hoping to salvage what's left in the regular.

I guess he didn't call a starters meeting to see who they wanted to play with like two years ago. Ha.

Robin Smith 4 years, 8 months ago

Pretty strong statements in Selfspeak. Good move as well.

We've taken to calling him (and chanting) "Lightfoot Difference-Maker!" because good things happen when he's on the floor. Boy can he take a charge, too.

Mike Kendall 4 years, 8 months ago

He's the best at taking charges---such a momentum swing, when it happens!

Brett McCabe 4 years, 8 months ago

My recommendation is to go ahead and bring in the Lawsons for home games. We lose in AFH anyways, so give them the P.T. so that they can get some work in before next year, their ineligibility won't effect our overall record, our rotation gets a rest and the home crowd, diminished by Zenger's win over the Student Senate, might actually find something that they can manage to stand up and be interested in. (horrible grammar, i know).

If we can win out on the road, we'll still qualify for the tourney. Let's just hope we don't have to play WSU.

Shannon Gustafson 4 years, 8 months ago

What's this "we'll still qualify for the tourney" crap. We're still projected to be a 1 seed or a 2 seed currently, have more tier 1 and tier 2 wins than ANY team in the country, and you're talking about not making the tourney. Wow, some people really lose their minds after losses.

Brett McCabe 4 years, 8 months ago

That would be three at home, already, dipsh*t. Maybe you didn't read the article...Bill's not happy with the 7-man rotation he built.

Robert Brock 4 years, 8 months ago

Lagerald is not working as hard on his game as he is working on his hair.

Mike Kendall 4 years, 8 months ago

I like the move. Very logical that Self sends a message to Vick. Now----if Dok & Lightfoot can stay out of foul trouble. . . .

Kurt Kerns 4 years, 8 months ago

This is the type of coach that should represent our state. Between Bill and W.S.U coach Marshal we are well represented. Vick will still make a big difference!!!!

Ian Ballinger 4 years, 8 months ago

now KState just needs to fire their joke

Michael Leiker 4 years, 8 months ago

Of course this is a nice and necessary move by Self, but let's not kid ourselves that this is self inflicted. There's no reason that a KU team should be playing with only 7 serviceable players. Transfers, a string of medium productivity 1-dones (save Jackson), miss after miss after miss. They have dug this hole themselves. These guys are wore out, plain and simple. Having to call out a kid this viciously who simply is being forced to play a role that he's not built to play because of the coach's recruiting failures just kind of stinks.

Bryce Landon 4 years, 8 months ago

"Self-inflicted"? I see what you did there, Michael. :))

Michael Leiker 4 years, 8 months ago

I was torn, didn't want to put no pun intended as it's overused with coach Self and with my limited vocab I couldn't think of another word to use...

Andy Godwin 4 years, 8 months ago

On the mark. This season can be summed up by defections (Coleby and Whitman) and misses in recruiting? The weakness over the past few years has been at the 4-spot and the backup center position (Udoka's injury last year). Josh Jackson (the Swiss army knife of basketball), might have been the MVP of the team last year, while playing out of his natural position. The recruits at the power forward position over the past few years, Cliff Alexander, Cheick Diallo, Carlton Braggs, and now Billy Preston have provided very little to the team. Ideally, one would have felt good going into the season with Udoka being backed up by Coleby and Preston being backed up by Lightfoot, and Vick, Garrett and Cunliffe backing up the starting 3 guards (Graham, Svi, and Newman). This move is Self's effort to try and overcome one of the team's holes he created, i.e., still only 9 eligible players scholarship, including Sam who does not play and De Sousa who was Self's desperate attempt to fill the void he knew was coming with Preston. Vick's effort might be poor, but he does not have the physical attributes of Jackson last year and has a hard time guarding bigger players when taken inside? Now fouls will be a real issue to Udoka and Lightfoot, if De Sousa continues to struggle.

Brian Skelly 4 years, 8 months ago

I've tried to argue this point -- especially with our bigs. When you constantly get one-and-done guys (or sometimes done before were even there), it's soooooo hard to back fill the hole you've created, and it appears we've been on this treadmill for several years now. I get that the game is trending this way, it's been difficult to keep any semblance of depth on this team.

And understand,  Coleby and Whitman didn't defect,  they we're told to go in so many words.    Doing that to me is nearly unconscionable when you see the holes in this teams roster now.

Tom Jones 4 years, 8 months ago

It was pretty stupid of Bill to run into that curb...

Michael Leiker 4 years, 8 months ago

It's somebody's job to keep the players in line and on the court. Part of the gig. That role has definitely been missing

Justin Kruse 4 years, 8 months ago

Super excited about this! Mitch always bring the energy and it’s going to be fun playing with two bigs. Can’t wait for tomorrow night!

Michael Sillman 4 years, 8 months ago

To me this means that Self is prepared to give more minutes to De Sousa with less reliance on the four guard offense. There will have to be a backup big available to relieve Azubuike and Lightfoot who are going to be exposed to more fatigue and fouls.

Jerry Becker 4 years, 8 months ago

I agree with sitting Vick but maybe De Sousa could use the spot instead. He needs some playing time and give him some room to learn from his mistakes on the court. Mitch is always there to sub for either of the bigs.

Barry Weiss 4 years, 8 months ago

Hard to argue with coach on this one. I've noticed Vick does not even break a sweat til late in the half. He just seems to be giving it 50-75% of what he could. We need 100% out of him!! I think this puts pressure on Newman to keep giving 100%. He also seemed to slack off against Okie State. If he does again, Vick can come in for him. Or if Svi is having a bad game, Vick can come in for him.

Brad Watson 4 years, 8 months ago

I am confident that Coach will get it all figured out....he knows its an effort be a takes every ounce of effort.... every night everyone on the team....players...coaches...managers ...etc........without that kind of investment ... you really don't deserve to be a champion.......Period!

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