Saturday, December 12, 2020

Mitch Lightfoot’s career night came within the framework of what the KU senior’s always been about

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) laughs with Omaha forward Matt Pile (40) during the first half on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Mitch Lightfoot (44) laughs with Omaha forward Matt Pile (40) during the first half on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020 at Allen Fieldhouse.


Kansas guard Ochai Agbaji has a simple theory about KU teammate Mitch Lightfoot.

“Anytime he’s out there on the court, he’s having fun,” Agbaji said of Lightfoot following KU’s 95-50 win over Omaha on Friday night at Allen Fieldhouse. “It doesn't matter how he's playing, he’s always bringing energy and bringing that positive smile.”

That certainly is what Lightfoot has come to be known for throughout his Kansas career.

But the fifth-year senior had an extra reason to feel good on Friday night. And nearly all of it came in the first half, when he eclipsed his previous career-high with 12 points in just 10 minutes.

For the game, he finished with 14 points in 14 minutes, topping his previous career-best of 11 points against Oakland back in 2017.

The big night, which helped KU (6-1) bully the Mavericks (2-5) in the paint from start to finish, came one day after Kansas coach Bill Self said he needed to play Lightfoot more than the 6.2 minutes per game he was getting during the season’s first six games.

“I thought Mitch was terrific,” said Self of the senior’s third career double-digit scoring effort.

But it was much more than Lightfoot’s 4-of-5 shooting clip and 5-of-6 performance at the free throw line that drew Self’s praise.

Lightfoot also grabbed seven rebounds — three offensive — and blocked three shots, bringing to mind the play of another KU forward from the recent past.

“We should kind of measure Mitch like we did with Jamari (Traylor), just from an energy standpoint and intangibles,” Self said of the 2016 KU graduate. “He makes some plays that others can’t make. And if he scores, great. If he doesn't score, big deal; because he can still help us win games with his activity level.”

Self and Lightfoot talked this week about that very thing. And it sort of helped Lightfoot reemphasize his approach.

“(I don’t) expect and think I'm deserving of anything,” the KU forward said. “I'm trying to go out there and give my team the best chance to win. I was able to do that tonight and I was pretty excited about it.”

“I think my role is to give us energy,” he added. “I need to help us get extra possessions, score when I’m needed to score, (grab) offensive rebounds, set good screens and run to the rim.”

When things are really clicking for Lightfoot, as they were on Friday night, the 6-foot-8 senior who moves well and has good athleticism is capable of doing all of that and more.

His three blocks gave the KU defense energy and turned into offense on the other end. His buckets down low proved that KU has another scoring option inside beyond junior David McCormack. He even hit a 3-pointer late in the first half, which pushed him past his career mark for points scored in a single game and made Self smile.

“Mitch has shot the ball really well in practice,” Self said. “It was nice to see him step away from the basket and make a shot or two.”

The 3-pointer, which came on Lightfoot’s first attempt from behind the arc this season, fell through the net with 33 seconds left in the half and KU scrambling to execute a two-for-one shot attempt scenario before the break.

“I heard coach yell, ‘Two for one,’ and I didn't know how much time was on the clock so I was trying to get it off as fast as possible,” said Lightfoot, who admitted to not minding that the ball was in his hands when he heard Self’s call.

“I was totally broken up over it,” he deadpanned.

The shot went down. The Jayhawks were on their way to an easy win. And Lightfoot now moves forward with his most complete game of the season under his belt.

“We got the guy we all know him as (tonight),” Agbaji said after the victory. “Mitch was great.”

Like any player, Lightfoot always would like to play more. But his devotion to KU’s team-first mindset and his dedication to all things Kansas basketball have made it easy for him to take whatever minutes he gets while spending the rest of his time focused on being a good teammate.

“I have total faith in coach Self,” Lightfoot said. “I trust him and I understand that there is a process and there are certain times where certain lineups work better than others. If that means we're going to win, I'll take it.”


Alan Dickey 1 year, 11 months ago

I developed this modified Efficiency rating to compare players on the same team. It is: (Pts + Rebounds + Assists(x2) + Steals + Blocks - TOs - PFs - Missed Shots - Missed FTs/2) / Minutes.

It overstates assists versus other rating systems. My logic is that: (1) it seems to reflect more adequately the value of guards versus post men in the final scheme; and (2) it reflects my view that the player dishing out an assist did just as much to create a score as the player making the shot. In any event, whether you look at my EFF or the nationally-recognized Player Efficiency Rating (PER), Lightfoot is far and away our best player so far—statistically. Numbers obviously don’t tell the whole story, but his numbers are so much higher than any other current Jayhawk player, and even higher than Azubuike’s last year, that I think he should get some more PT. I hope that happens.

0.82 / 34.7 Mitch Lightfoot
0.66 / 25.8 Jalen Wilson
0.60 / 22.5 Ochai Agbaji
0.49 / 19.2 Christian Braun
0.47 / 14.5 Marcus Garrett
0.46 / 19.0 Tyon Grant-Foster
0.44 / 18.0 David McCormack
0.41 / 13.4 Dajuan Harris
0.19 / 06.8 Tristan Enaruna
0.18 / 07.8 Bryce Thompson

2020 - FINAL
0.76 / 31.3 Udoka Azubuike
0.60 / 24.9 Devon Dotson
0.53 / 23.6 David McCormack
0.50 / 16.8 Marcus Garrett
0.32 / 13.1 Ochai Agbaji
0.32 / 14.8 Christian Braun
0.30 / 15.0 Silvio De Sousa
0.28 / 09.0 Tristan Enaruna
0.23 / 11.4 Isaiah Moss

Steve Zimmerman 1 year, 11 months ago

Nice stats!

Your 2020/last season, sounds about right, except the end of the list. I'm surprised Moss is rated less than Tristan and Silvio according to your calc. Similarly for the current season, I swear Bryce helped our team more than Tristan (he caused TOs, gave away and-1, didn't play good D - against inferior team, sometimes they're consecutive bonehead plays). Tristan and David should have their DNAs mixed. We'll see a much better team.

BTW, defense activities that cause TOs: taking charges, standing tall, chasing opponents to cause out-of-bounds, saving ball that's about to go OOB; they are just as effective as steals and blocks, IMHO. Those should be taken into account.

Alan Dickey 1 year, 11 months ago

“defense activities that cause TOs: taking charges, standing tall, chasing opponents to cause out-of-bounds, saving ball that's about to go OOB; they are just as effective as steals and blocks, IMHO. Those should be taken into account.”

I agree. There’s just no data points on these. Some things have to be left to the subjective interpreters.

Dane Pratt 1 year, 11 months ago

Nice work Alan. I'd like to see Mitch get more PT. Seven minutes a game does not seem like enough for his level of talent.

Alan Dickey 1 year, 11 months ago

Thanks Dane. Based on Self’s comment above, it seems like he agrees with you. I think we should give Lightfoot more time. If he doesn’t continue to thrive, that is what it is, but until he fails, which I hope he doesn’t, give him a chance. He’s really agile.

Mallory Briggans 1 year, 11 months ago

Heres my take on that make more baskets than the other team .you win .analytics aside

Jonathan Allison 1 year, 11 months ago

In a hypothetical game to 11, I made 5 layups and my competition made 4 three pointers.

I made more baskets, so I claimed victory even though the game ended when he surpassed 11 points.

After a robust debate over the rules he was declared the winner because he had more points when the game ended despite that I made more baskets.

Before the next simulation I should adjust my hypothetical game plan.

Alan Dickey 1 year, 11 months ago

Obviously, and rebounds, assists, steals, and blocked shots all lead to more scoring opportunities for your team; and turnovers, fouls, missed shots, and missed FTs either negate scoring opportunities or give them to the opponent.

Brian Wilson 1 year, 11 months ago

Well, the efiiciency rating is based on a very limited number of minutes played so far this year. What was Lightfoot's efficiency ratng two years ago? But, your point is taken, and Lightfoot should play more minutes until you know whether he can maintain the rating or if it falls. Numbers do not lie, and HCBS ought to take a hard look at it. Sometimes the best player for the team is not the one that is most athletic or the one that looks pretty while playing. Sometimes it's the one that seems to get the job done, which is usually the one that plays from the heart!

Alan Dickey 1 year, 11 months ago

Two years ago, playing behind and with Dedric Lawson, KL Lawson, and Azubuike, Lightfoot had an EFF of 0.34. Now, two years later, he almost-exclusively plays as the only “big” (when he’s in); and he does so with two more years of experience. He’s good.

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