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Monday, January 3, 2022

Kansas senior Mitch Lightfoot to start for Jayhawks on Tuesday at Oklahoma State

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.

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Kansas senior Mitch Lightfoot will start in place of David McCormack during Tuesday’s game at Oklahoma State, where the sixth-ranked Jayhawks will open Big 12 play.

Kansas coach Bill Self announced the change during a Monday morning news conference, two days after saying it was time to give Lightfoot more minutes following Saturday's victory over George Mason.

After announcing the change, Self joked that he remembered telling a younger Lightfoot that if he stuck around the program long enough, he could wind up being a starter.

“I kept my promise,” Self said Monday. “The kid’s done pretty much everything he’s supposed to do for us and he’s not been a starter. So we’re going to try something different. … I think it’s something that’s worth trying because we haven’t gotten off to good starts with our 5 position.”

For Self, the move comes down to efficiency. It’s not that he expects either McCormack or Lightfoot to be a dominant offensive presence while in the game. The Jayhawks have plenty of other scorers and, with their four-guard approach, can find other ways to create offense.

But the 5 man has to be a part of that.

“From a big-picture standpoint, I think we can get 20 points and 12 rebounds out of that spot,” Self said Monday. “I don’t think our big guys have to score a ton. I think they have to be efficient when they get touches and I think Mitch has been more efficient when he’s gotten touches.”

Self said he announced the lineup change to his team in a group setting and that he presented it as a way to both reward Lightfoot for his recent play and as a way to help McCormack.

“I love David McCormack,” Self said. “We will not be a terrific team this year unless he performs better. That’s the bottom line. And we’ve got to do some things to help him perform better. That’s it.

“It wasn’t a one-on-one conversation. I’ll probably talk to him one-on-one, but it’s a team thing. You do what’s best for the team if something isn’t working. You don’t need to candy-coat it. You can just be direct.”

Self then shared the words he used while telling the Jayhawks about the change.

“Hey, we’re going to try something different,” he began. “We’re going to start Mitch. Mitch has played well, he’s earned an opportunity, and David maybe this will give you a chance to come off the bench and have a little bit of a different perspective and maybe be a little bit more relaxed when you’re out there.”

That last part — taking some of the pressure off of McCormack — might wind up being the biggest piece of all of this. And Self said he expected McCormack to play well in his new role. He also noted that if McCormack delivers, he could quickly work his way back into the starting lineup.

“I anticipate David playing well,” Self said. “Of course, I anticipate him playing well all the time. He’s too good a player not to play well. Maybe this’ll take a little pressure off. This will maybe give David a chance to watch from the bench to start out and hopefully perform better when he gets in there.”

As of Monday, Self said there was no plan for how the minutes specifically would be divided up between Lightfoot and McCormack. He noted that Lightfoot, as a starter, likely would have the opportunity to play “quite a bit,” but also added that tinkering with things could open the door for freshmen KJ Adams and Zach Clemence to crack the regular rotation at the 5, as well.

“We’ve said all along, how do we get those guys more minutes and maybe this is an opportunity to do that,” Self said of Adams and Clemence. “So I’m not going into it thinking Mitch plays this, David plays that, whatever. I’m going into it thinking we’ve got to start piecing that 5 spot together better where we’re getting that 20 and 12 night in and night out.”

Tuesday’s game is set for an 8 p.m. tipoff on ESPN2.

Comments

Robert Brock 7 months, 1 week ago

Uh, oh. KU’s already weak defense is worse when Lightfoot is on the court.

Bville Hawk 7 months, 1 week ago

Not sure what you're basing that comment on, Robert. Care to elaborate???

Ryan Michael 7 months, 1 week ago

Our defense, offense, and general ball movement is better when Mitch is on the court vs. McCormack.

If you can't see that, maybe time to put down the pipe because quite literally everyone else see's it clear as day. McCormack took like 9 steps backwards from last season it's not even close. He's out of position all the time on boards, he gets pushed around by little guards, he can't hit an uncontested layup for crying out loud. The guy is broken, and i hope he puts it together but until then Mitch is 100% the better option.

You know that's the case, because Self RARELY makes changes like this once he's selected his starters... But DMac has been so bad, even Self couldn't justify leaving him in there.

Blake Brown 7 months, 1 week ago

The key now is for Mitch to avoid foul trouble, especially the ole moving screen kind, AND make free throws, the 2 areas he's least proficient in. I think we are better with hime starting or at least playing more time.

Jerry Walker 7 months, 1 week ago

I agree and I think Mitch is smart enough to handle that. He's never had to worry about foul trouble because he new he wasn't going to play much anyway.

Andy Godwin 7 months, 1 week ago

Not surprised since Self puts winning above all else. The way Mr. Lightfoot plays reminds me of a little of Landen Lucas. He is not the fastest or highest jumper, but someone who plays team ball and understands his role. One of the roles of the center is to create driving lanes for the guards which allow for easy baskets. Landen was excellent at setting screens in the paint and walling off defenders. Mitch is also willing to set a screen while Mr. McCormack would rather back out and look for the pass. It is a bit of a mystery to why Mr. McCormack has regressed, but it is essential for him, or Adams, or Clemence to step up because Mr. Lightfoot is foul prone. Not too long from now KU will get to see Oscar Tshiebwe who now plays for Kentucky. He is only averaging 15.8 points and 15.2 rebounds a game (including a 28-rebound game) while picking up only 2.5 fouls/game. It would be nice if the KU centers combined could approach this level of productivity. If KU can 1) stay healthy, 2) develop consistent production for the 5 position, and 3) get Jalen Wilson going, they have a shot at having a great season. Rock Chalk.

Bryce Landon 7 months, 1 week ago

Praise God for good sense on Coach Self's part! Mitch is long overdue for a starting spot.

Self is being way kinder to D-Mac than I would be if I were the coach. I'd have said something like, "David just doesn't deserve to start right now".

Greg Bowles 7 months, 1 week ago

All comments here are valid. This was supposed to be the year that McCormack was going to be an all Big XII team player, but the way he is playing now, he wouldn't even make honorable mention. Which is really sad, being that he is a four year player for the Jayhawks, and just hasn't got his s**t together.

Joe Ross 7 months, 1 week ago

Jalen Wilson, Dave McCormick, and Remy Martin have ALL underperformed.

Rae Bricil 7 months, 1 week ago

not sure i fully agree on Remy. He's finding his way in an offense where he's no longer the first option and he's distributing the ball well. I thought the offense looked horrible without him via GM--Ochai and Braun struggled. Granted Remy's defense could be better but that's improving as well. Overall brings an energy and an ability to create his own shots that no one else on the team has.

RJ King 7 months, 1 week ago

Braun and Ochai are way better at creating own shots than last year. Hopefully that trend will continue. Even DaJaun has snuck in there a couple of times.

Rae Bricil 7 months, 1 week ago

agreed. they both have made huge strides at the same time i still don't think they are as good at creating and are not a flat out scorer like Remy.

I also worry about Braun's confidence. I don't recall how many open 3's he passed up last game but on a single possession there as 2 or 3. Self has already commented he should shot more --so hopefully he listens.

Edward Daub 7 months, 1 week ago

Mitch is what I like to call a 6'8" "Jumping Jack"!

He reminds me of Rud Slater, who played with Chip Hilton.

Rock Chalk!

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