He Will, He Won't, He Might: Mitch Lightfoot
The intent when this series began was to give a little deeper look at what to expect from each key member of this year’s Kansas basketball team leading up to the start of the season.
There was no exact plan for the timing or when to roll each installment out, but we certainly can’t complain with the final edition being posted the morning of the exhibition opener.
Today’s "He Will, He Won’t, He Might" features the 10th player in our series and one of the Jayhawks fighting to become an important part of KU’s regular rotation.
Sophomore guard Lagerald Vick, who has received a fair amount of hype of his own this preseason, said Monday that the one player who has caught his eye during recent practices is freshman forward Mitch Lightfoot. Asked why, Vick responded with, “I just see him getting comfortable every day, fitting in, learning fast.”
While nearly all of this team’s most important roles are already established and clearly defined, this battle between Lightfoot and junior transfer Dwight Coleby for second big man off the bench minutes should be as intriguing as any to watch, especially early in the season as the roles and rotation are being established.
In case you missed any of the earlier installments in this series, follow the links below:
Now, back to what to expect from Lightfoot...
He will: Be ready for big time college basketball
Does that mean he could start for the Jayhawks and help them win 30 games this season? Probably not. But there’s just something about this young man that projects that none of this is too much for him.
He looks calm, he looks comfortable, he looks beyond excited and he plays with a natural vibe and flow and never appears to be trying to do too much. That’s a quick way to get meaningful minutes and an even better approach to improving quickly.
The players who think too much about everything little detail often wind up pressing and getting in their own heads. We haven’t seen even a hint of that with Lightfoot and it will be interesting to see if that continues once they tip it off for real. If it does, this guy is going to be a player sooner rather than later.
He won’t: Be overlooked by Bill Self
KU coach Bill Self clearly knows what he has in Lightfoot, both in the short term and the long term. He’s said as much and continues to sing his praises every time he talks about the freshman class.
Self’s method of playing the guys who deserve the minutes, regardless of age, name, hype, etc., ensures that (a) the players who can best execute what he wants done will be on the floor, and (b) freshmen, newcomers and veterans who some think have been left for dead will get an equal opportunity to prove to Self that they belong in the rotation.
Lightfoot has already done enough to prove to Self that he’s worthy of consideration for that. All that’s left to do now is to prove he can handle the bright lights and pressure from opponents. If he can, Self will recognize it with ease and Lightfoot will have a role right away.
He might: Play more minutes than Dwight Coleby
As mentioned above, this battle is one of the more intriguing battles for minutes on the roster. With the starting five set and Lagerald Vick and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk both shoe-ins to play perimeter minutes off the bench, that leaves KU’s frontcourt rotation in question.
Because of his X-factor potential and raw size, Udoka Azubuike seems destined to become the first big man off the bench, but in those games when Self needs another, it’s either going to come down to Coleby or Lightfoot. Coleby has the edge in experience and Self said Monday that the Ole Miss transfer has looked much better of late. But Lightfoot is the better athlete in some ways and, at least at this point, appears to have a little more confidence. Beyond that, I think Lightfoot fits a little better with KU’s desire to play fast and small.
Regardless of which one of these guys wins the battle — and a scenario exists in which they both play in rotating fashion — neither figures to average high minutes. But during those games where foul trouble hits or a big lineup comes calling, one of them will be a factor at some point or another this season and it’ll be very interesting to see if the young freshman can jump the upperclassmen for the No. 9 spot in the rotation.