Mitch Lightfoot will see a familiar face on the opposing team when he steps onto the court at Intrust Bank Arena for Kansas’ NCAA Tournament opener Thursday.
His fishing buddy.
Penn senior forward Sam Jones and Lightfoot, KU’s 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, attended the same high school near Phoenix. Jones graduated the year before Lightfoot transferred in, but as Gilbert Christian School alumni, they remain close.
“We have a small-knit community at our high school, 150 kids,” Jones said. “I live down the street from him, literally less than a block away. So we hang out every summer, get workouts in, go fishing together.”
In the Midwest, Lightfoot is near some of the world’s best bass fishing — “Largemouth bass is my favorite thing to fish for,” he says — but basketball takes priority when he’s at KU. In Arizona during the summer, the fishing is different.
“Honestly, it’s kind of weird stuff,” Lightfoot says of the aquatic life he’ll hook, including overgrown pet goldfish and large grass carp. Instead of ponds or reservoirs, he says they'll fish in irrigation canals near golf courses in the desert.
Lightfoot is expected to start again Thursday as Udoka Azubuike recovers from a knee ligament strain. In three starts during the Big 12 Tournament, Lightfoot scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and blocked three shots in 58 minutes.
“Great guy, I love Mitch,” Jones said. “He’s crazy, has a lot of energy, always trying to do something, diving on the floor.”
Jones, 6-7 and 185 pounds, comes off the bench for the Quakers, appearing in 25 of their 32 games. He’s a career 37.4 percent three-point shooter.
“It’s great to see him succeed and see him in the NCAA Tournament,” Lightfoot said. “He can really shoot the ball.”