University of Kansas

Kansas sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot working on his game during offseason

Mitch Lightfoot (left) hit 10 of 18 shots his freshman season for Kansas.
Mitch Lightfoot (left) hit 10 of 18 shots his freshman season for Kansas. rsugg@kcstar.com

Kansas sophomore Mitch Lightfoot’s long-range shooting served as one of the highlights of Bill Self’s two camp games the past two weeks at Horejsi Center.

Lightfoot, a 6-foot-8 forward from Gilbert, Ariz., who was used sparingly last season, hit four three-pointers in games contested the last two Wednesdays. He accounted for 22 points in one contest and 12 points in another, swishing a pair of three-pointers in each game.

“I mean I talked to Coach Self after the season. (He said) I’m going to have to be able to stretch the floor,” Lightfoot said. “As a 4-man, that’s a big part of my game. I also have to be able to guard big guys. I’ve got to be able to do both.”

Lightfoot, who hit 10 of 18 shots his freshman season including 2 threes in 3 attempts, agreed with a reporter’s assertion that he seems more comfortable on the court this summer than he did in games last season.

“For me, I feel it’s being a sophomore,” Lightfoot said. “Coming into this year I played the most minutes on the team of anybody in the post position.”

Actually he played 102 minutes in 26 games in 2016-17, trailing big man Udoka Azubuike, who played 142 minutes in 11 games.

“Knowing that, I don’t have time to make mental mistakes, freshman mistakes like I did last year, being ahead of myself, thinking too far ahead,” Lightfoot said. “I’m going to take it as it comes. Now that I have an idea of what Coach wants — the plays, the stuff he needs me to know and the role I have to play, I’ll be more relaxed and ready to play.”

Lightfoot has spent many hours in the weight room and the gym since the end of last season.

“I figure I have to get a lot better in not a lot of time,” said Lightfoot, who longs to be part of KU’s regular rotation. “I’ve been working a lot on my jump shot, on strength. That’s a big one with me, getting bigger. I’m putting on weight slowly but surely. For me it’s shooting the ball, making timely decisions, being quick but not in a hurry.”

Lightfoot said he currently weighs “216, 217 (pounds). By the time the season rolls around, I want to be in the 223, 224 area. Last year I was 210, 209. That’s not a Big 12 4-man. Eating, lifting with Coach Hudy (Andrea, strength coach) is a big thing for me.”

Self said Lightfoot does project to play more this season than he did as freshman. In fact, Self said Lightfoot and the 7-foot Azubuike currently “are the leaders of the bigs. They’ll take a leadership role, Mitch maybe as much as anybody else. He’s a really good drill guy. Guys can follow his lead. I’d say up until October (start of preseason practice) guys will look up to him as one of the key guys to watch and follow,” Self added.

KU’s big-man group consists of Azubuike, Lightfoot, freshman Billy Preston and graduate transfer Jack Whitman. Former Memphis forward Dedric Lawson is not eligible to play in games until the 2018-19 season.

“Udoka has grown a ton, not just basketball (skills) but his personality. He’s come out to be a vibrant personality on the team,” Lightfoot said. “Basketball … he’s picked up where he left off (when he hurt his wrist last December, necessitating surgery) if not more. He’s athletic as all get-out. He’s going to be a monster this year.

“Billy is really settling in, finding his rhythm,” Lightfoot said in describing Preston, a 6-10 McDonald’s All-American from Los Angeles.

Of 6-9 William & Mary transfer Whitman, Lightfoot noted: “Jack is athletic, tough, willing to learn. He’s been a sponge. It’s something you have to do to perform well at this level.”

Lightfoot joked that he’ll try to resemble Whitman facially by the start of the season. Whitman sports a mustache.

“I talked to him about it the other day,” Lightfoot said. “If I can grow a ’stache by the season, I will do it. I’m gonna try.”

Lightfoot was in a good mood Wednesday after hearing Self tell his campers that Lightfoot figured to play an important role on this year’s squad.

“The Kansas side of me, the little kid growing up in Kansas (before moving to Arizona in grade school) … it kind of gives you butterflies. Stuff like that is really exciting,” Lightfoot said. “The Kansas basketball player side of me knows that’s what I have to do. It’s what I came here to do, just another step in the process of getting better, becoming a bigger part of this team and helping us win some more games.”

Trade rumors galore

ESPN.com reported on Friday night that the Boston Celtics, who have the No. 1 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, and Philadelphia 76ers, who pick third, are discussing a trade that would send the top pick to Philadelphia.

The Sixers would ship future draft picks and this year’s No. 3 pick to Boston, ostensibly so Philly could take Washington point guard Markelle Fultz at No. 1 and pair him with last year’s top pick, Ben Simmons, in the backcourt.

It may not be that cut and dried, however.

ESPN reports that Boston and Philadelphia both are fans of former Kansas guard Josh Jackson and could conceivably take him — Boston at No. 1 or Philly at No. 1 if it makes the trade, or No. 3 if Jackson fell that far.

The Sixers reportedly held a workout for Jackson on Friday, as well as one for Fultz and one for Kentucky’s De’Aaron Fox on Saturday. In fact, former KU center Joel Embiid of the Sixers tweeted a photo of himself standing in front of a locker with Fultz’s name on it Saturday.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers, who pick second, have held a pair of workouts with Jackson, whom they could take at No. 2 over Lonzo Ball.

Draftexpress.com’s Jonathan Givony, however, writes that Jackson’s most recent workout with the Lakers, “did not go well at all.”

According to Givony, Jackson “brought high energy but struggled with his shooting and handle.”

Givony also said Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson “is in love” with Fultz and might want to trade for the Celts’ pick to select him.

Anthony flooded with calls, texts

Cole Anthony, the top-ranked point guard in the recruiting Class of 2019, was busy Thursday, the first day college coaches could call or text high school juniors.

Anthony, a 6-2 junior from Archbishop Molloy in New York who is ranked No. 8 overall in the class by Rivals.com, heard from coaches from KU, Indiana, Baylor, North Carolina, Duke, UCLA, Illinois, Oregon, Maryland, Georgetown, UConn, St. John’s, Miami, Wake Forest, Louisville, Virginia, Notre Dame, Arizona, Pitt, Utah, UNLV, Ohio State, Cal and Memphis, Rivals.com reports.

He is the son of former NBA player Greg Anthony.

Gary Bedore: 816-234-4068, @garybedore

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