Mitch Lightfoot on Bill Self’s ‘pretty amazing’ late recruiting
Kansas’ 2019-20 men’s basketball roster of scholarship players consists of three seniors, two juniors, three sophomores and four freshmen.
“I think we have a good combination of veterans and young guys,” Mitch Lightfoot, a 6-foot-8 senior forward from Gilbert, Arizona said recently at Bill Self’s basketball camp, referring to the 12 scholarship players. The Jayhawks also have three walk-ons.
“Guys in the locker room all have a good attitude,” Lightfoot said of the mix of players, who with the exception of senior graduate transfer Isaiah Moss have been in Lawrence all of June for summer school classes, hoops practices and unsupervised pick-up games.
“Everybody is willing to put the work in and I think that’s the feeling in the locker room,” Lightfoot added.
KU’s roster has filled in nicely since the conclusion of the 2018-19 school year.
“What’d we have seven guys (on the entire team) a couple weeks ago?” Lightfoot said with a smile.
KU actually had eight players on the roster following Udoka Azubuike’s April 22 decision to not enter the 2019 NBA Draft and the May 7 commitment of freshman-to-be guard/forward Tristan Enaruna.
Junior-to-be Silvio De Sousa was declared eligible for competition by the NCAA on May 24 and promptly withdrew his name from the NBA Draft. Sophomore guard Devon Dotson removed his name from the NBA Draft early entry list on May 29. Graduate transfer Moss committed on June 10 and freshman guard/forward Jalen Wilson committed on June 12.
“Now we’ve got guys coming back, good recruits coming in. I think things are looking up,” Lightfoot said. “I mean that’s the reason Coach Self is in the Hall of Fame. (He) figures stuff out. I think it’s pretty amazing Coach can do that.”
Self to this point has elected to not award a 13th scholarship, passing on pursuing big man Josephat Bilau (Wichita State) and wing Lok Wur (Oregon), who had expressed some interest in KU. Self in the past has liked to have an open scholarship in case somebody such as current blue-chips N’Faly Dante or Kyree Walker elects to reclassify from 2020 to 2019. Teams are allowed 13 scholarship players in accordance with NCAA rules.
Lightfoot said he’s been especially impressed with KU’s newcomers the past several weeks.
“They will make a huge impact,” Lightfoot said of freshmen Enaruna, Christian Braun, Issac McBride and Wilson. “The thing about these freshmen, they play so hard. They are all willing to get better. From what I’ve seen they all like to learn. Coach is obviously confident in them. He’s letting them know that.”
KU’s big-man group of Lightfoot, Azubuike, De Sousa and sophomore David McCormack is quite experienced.
“All the big guys … this is the same group as last year,” Lightfoot said. “It’s kind of cool to have everyone on the court healthy. Put everybody together and it’ll be pretty special.”
Azubuike will be a candidate for preseason Big 12 player of the year as will sophomore point guard Dotson.
“I think it’s important, you can’t let Doke get double-teamed in there,” Lightfoot said of 7-footer Azubuike, who played in just nine games a year ago because of injury. “Obviously he’s pretty unstoppable inside. The only way to stop him is double team him. If you can stretch the floor with the 4-man spot, that will be important.”
Of the 6-foot-10 McCormack, who Self said is the team’s most improved player, Lightfoot said: “He’s been putting in a ton of work. He’s been in the gym probably more than anyone I think. The kid works his tail off. It’s showing on the court. ... Toward the end of last year he slowed his game down, relaxed. He’s more relaxed, comfortable on the court. Once he gets all that together he’ll be in good shape.”
KU’s big man group is looking so strong, Lightfoot acknowledges he’s considering redshirting the season and returning as a senior in 2020-21.
“I mean yeah I think I would (consider the option). That’s a decision we haven’t made yet. It’s something we can think about. But at this point in time, not really,” Lightfoot said.
Other returnees are junior Marcus Garrett and sophomore Ochai Agbaji,
Lightfoot — he says it’s “an honor” being a senior — was able to fit in a couple weeks of vacation prior to his starting summer school 2019. He recently played a handful of games in Israel with an Athletes in Action team. Former KU forward Wayne Simien was an assistant coach for the squad.
“We visited a bunch of Biblical sites,” Lightfoot said. “That was really cool. I’m really close to Wayne back here in Lawrence. To get a chance to travel with him, that’s pretty cool. Getting to play with new players, to experience a different style of basketball ... how they play over there is different from here. It was something special.”
Lightfoot’s young brother, Miles, played on the Athletes in Action team as did Devonte Bandoo and Mark Vital of Baylor and Mitch Ballock of Creighton, who is a graduate of Eudora High.
“My brother was the youngest guy on the team. It was fun spending some time with him again,” Lightfoot said. “I think it was a learning experience for him, too.”
Katz picks KU eighth
Andy Katz of NCAA.com has ranked Kansas No. 8 in his 2019-20 preseason poll which consists of 36 teams.
“The Jayhawks could have the most intimidating frontcourt in the country with Udoka Azubuike and Silvio De Sousa. Getting Devon Dotson (Quentin Grimes is transferring) will allow KU to have the necessary experience on the perimeter. If this team stays healthy then they will be in the chase for a Final Four berth,” Katz writes.
Katz ranked two other Big 12 teams: Texas Tech is No. 5, Baylor No. 17.
Vick to Houston Rockets
Former KU guard Lagerald Vick has reached an agreement with the Houston Rockets, according to SNYtv.com’s Ian Begley. The free agent is expected to be extended an invitation to play for the Rockets’ summer league team.
Oubre nets qualifying offer from Suns
The Phoenix Suns have extended a qualifying offer to former KU wing Kelly Oubre, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. That makes Oubre a restricted free agent on June 30.
“Oubre is a target for significant offer sheets in the market, especially with cap space teams who miss out on high-profile unrestricted free agents,” Wojnarowski wrote on Twitter.
The Suns will have the chance to match any offer Oubre receives.
Washington traded the 23-year-old Oubre to Phoenix last December for Trevor Ariza and Austin Rivers. Oubre averaged 16.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game in 40 games with the Suns.
“Why would I go anywhere else?” Oubre said to Arizona radio station 98.7 FM during the regular season. “I’m here, I’m getting established and I’m not a guy that really wants to be on a million teams in my tenure in the league and I just want to create a dynasty and a legacy here in Phoenix with all the guys in the locker room. It’s beautiful.”
Robinson to Spurs
Former KU forward Thomas Robinson will play in the summer league with the San Antonio Spurs, according to J.D. Shaw of Hoopsrumors.com. Robinson, 28, last played in the NBA during the 2016-17 season with the Los Angeles Lakers. He played in China last season.