Somewhat-undersized Kansas power forward Mitch Lightfoot is attempting to bulk up in preparation for daily practice battles against fellow bigs Udoka Azubuike, Dedric Lawson, David McCormack and Silvio De Sousa.
“We’ve got some big boys on this team,” Lightfoot, KU’s 6-foot-8 junior forward from Gilbert, Ariz., said Sunday at Allen Fieldhouse after signing autographs for 2 1/2 hours on the first day of the first session of Bill Self’s youth basketball camp.
“I’ve got to keep getting bigger, keep getting stronger,” added Lightfoot, who says he is up from 209 to 225 pounds since the end of last season with a goal of 230 by the start of KU's Boot Camp in September.
“Eating a lot more. That’s the best exercise,” Lightfoot said. “If you want to get bigger, you eat a lot. I’ve been eating six meals a day with (blessing of) our nutritionist. There’s a lot of protein, protein shakes throughout the day. Hudy (Andrea, strength coach) has been on me about it. I’m excited for the next part of the summer so I can stay in the weight room and potentially get bigger,” Lightfoot added.
Azubuike, a 7-footer from Nigeria who recently decided to remove his name from the NBA Draft and return for his junior season, will lead KU’s big-man group at 275 pounds. Freshman McCormack was listed at 6-10, 260 last season at Oak Hill Academy and looked every bit of that Sunday while signing autographs at Self’s camp. Former Memphis standout Lawson was listed at 6-9, 230 during the 2017-18 campaign in which he practiced but did not play in games in accordance with transfer rules. De Sousa was listed as 6-9, 245 in his first year at KU.
KU, which has used a four-guard lineup much of the time the past two seasons, may go with at least two bigs much of the time in 2018-19.
“Back to how coach (Bill) Self plays,” Lightfoot said of the 16th-year KU coach who for most of his coaching career has used two or more bigs at a time. “Obviously he’s in charge of how he plays, but with more big guys you have more options. We can play two bigs now because we have more bodies.”
Lightfoot was asked Sunday if he might be used some at small forward this season.
“Yeah, it would be nice to get back to my high school position," he said. "Obviously, doing whatever coach Self needs me to do for the team to win is what I want to do. Three, four, five, any of those spots is where I’ll try to do some damage this next upcoming year."
He said he was thrilled last week when Azubuike decided to put the NBA on hold a year, even though it will mean a more crowded frontcourt and a lot of competition for minutes.
“I know he loves it here. He loves the fans and loves the community,” Lightfoot said of Azubuike. “I feel each one of us on the team has a good relationship with Doke. He’s a little farther away from home. We are his family out here. We are excited to have him back. Obviously he is a monster and he’s going to bring stuff to the table what other people can’t bring.”
The Jayhawks players are allowed to work with coaches four hours a week while summer school is in session. They’ll also play pick-up games with no coaches in the gym almost every night. Self won’t be around much in June as he’s coaching USA Basketball’s under-18 national team.
“I think we’ll be OK. I don’t think that’s too big a deal,” Lightfoot said of Self being out of town. “He’s doing something great out at USA (Basketball camp in Colorado). We’re obviously super proud of him for that. We are excited for him to get back and have the full team together with Coach Self.”
Lightfoot said he’s looking forward to spending another summer in Lawrence. He pointed out that temperatures were “about 106” in Arizona during his two-week vacation from the end of last school year to start of summer school.
“Honestly, I think it all starts today (Sunday)," he said. "All the guys are together for the first time. It’s beginning of a journey to hopefully another Final Four and hopefully a national championship. Today is the day we start to get to know each other. It’s very important as a family."