He is a 6-foot-8 power forward who likely will be at Kansas for four years, a high-motor scorer with ties to Kansas City. With this in mind, KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self calls Mitch Lightfoot, the Jayhawks’ latest signee, a “great fit.”
Lightfoot, a native of Tucscon, Ariz., officially signed his letter of intent on Thursday afternoon, becoming the first member of Kansas’ 2016 recruiting class. Self has visions of a four-man recruiting class, and if history is any precedent, the Jayhawks will likely land more highly-touted players than Lightfoot, who is ranked as the nation’s 117th best recruit by Rivals.com.
But for the moment, Lightfoot is the first piece locked into place, and Self is bullish on his future.
“Mitch is one of those guys at 6-foot-8 that can play the power forward position and maybe even a little small forward in time,” Self said in a release. “He gives us great versatility and is a guy that knows how to play with other good players. He will develop himself into one of the premier players in our program.”
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It shouldn’t take Lightfoot long to feel at home. Born in Kansas City, Lightfoot’s family moved to Arizona when he was 6. He spent his childhood in the shadow of the University of Arizona, but he retained an allegiance to KU. He grew up a Jayhawks fan and spent summers in the area, visiting family.
The connection made for an easy bond with the KU staff and assistant coach Norm Roberts, who served as the point man in the recruitment. In late October, Lightfoot was ready to commit to Kansas, saying no to a final list of schools that also included Arizona, Stanford, Utah and St. John’s.
“After we got to know his immediate family and his extended family, it became very apparent he was a great fit,” Self said. “Everyone knew after visiting with him and his family that he was a top priority. We’re all excited to be able to work with him on a daily basis.”
As a junior at Gilbert Christian, Lightfoot averaged 17.9 points, 9.9 rebounds and 3.9 blocks while leading the school to the AIA Division II state title. Lightfoot is hopeful he’ll be able to contribute right away at Kansas.
The Jayhawks are set to lose three senior post players — Perry Ellis, Jamari Traylor and Hunter Mickelson — following this season, and Self has made the frontcourt a priority in this class. Lightfoot is a solid start, Self says, but the Jayhawks will continue to target a cadre of top big men.
At the top of that list are center Marques Bolden of DeSoto, Texas, and center Udoka Azubuike of Potter’s House Christian Academy in Jacksonville, Fla. Bolden is rated as Rivals’ No. 16 overall player, while Azubuike is No. 27. Kansas is also a strong contender for 6-foot-7 shooting guard Josh Jackson, Rivals’ No. 1 overall player in the class. Jackson, a native of Detroit, is playing this season at Prolific Prep in Napa, Calif.
“We would really like to sign four,” Self said. “We got off to a great start when we signed Mitchell Lightfoot. We have to sign some size. Losing Hunter (Michelson), Jamari (Traylor) and Perry (Ellis), and then with a great chance of someone else will probably leave early, we’re probably looking at replacing four of our top big guys up front. Even though our backcourt are underclassmen, we anticipate that at least one of those guys will have the opportunity to maybe move on to the next level after the completion of this season.”