Jayhawk Insider: A Spark Off the Bench
By Bryce Reedy
LAWRENCE, Kan. – Kansas men’s basketball’s 84-72 victory over Oklahoma State on Saturday had plenty of bright spots throughout. However, none shined brighter than the performance of junior Mitch Lightfoot.
“I don’t think he was the best player in the game, but I thought he was certainly the most important player that entered the game today,” head coach Bill Self said.
While his performance won’t jump off the stat sheet to the casual fan (finishing with six points and nine rebounds), it was his energy that he brought from off the bench that truly changed the game for the Jayhawks.
“Mitch was exceptional, and he was our best player in the game from an energy standpoint,” Self continued.
Whether it be a hard foul to negate an easy dunk from the Cowboys, an offensive rebound that he yanked down between three defenders or a massive block that was negated by a travel prior to the shot, Lightfoot found a way to bring life into the building.
“He was phenomenal,” Oklahoma State head coach Mike Boynton recalled in his postgame press conference. “He did what you do when you put on that uniform. When the opportunity comes you make sure that you are ready, and you do whatever it is that your team needs on that day. And today it was just bringing energy. The crowd and his teammates fed off that.”
While the circumstances behind Lighfoot’s minute load this season have not been what he had hoped, that has not changed his approach to every single game. He still comes into every contest with the mindset to give it everything he’s got.
“I just think it’s all about taking your opportunities and making the best of them,” Lightfoot said. “Whether it be two minutes or 20, you’ve got to go out there with the same energy and give Coach (Self) what he wants.”
And on Saturday, what the team needed was someone to breathe life into Allen Fieldhouse. The second Lightfoot stepped out onto the floor, the arena erupted in cheers and the energy in the arena changed. Fans roared every time Lightfoot was near the action, and his teammates fed off of that energy.
“It was a great atmosphere out there,” Lightfoot said. “It was really cool to be able to get out there and help my teammates win the game.”
Role players such as Lightfoot often times aren’t brought up when talking about some of the greatest teams in Kansas’ history. However, it is important to remember that all of those teams wouldn’t have gotten to where they were without sparks like Lightfoot.
“There has been a lot of guys like him,” Boynton said. “I know we talk about all the Hall of Famers, Wilt Chamberlain and Paul Pierce, but there have been a lot of guys like (Lightfoot) that have come in here and helped those teams hang those banners.”
As the regular season hits its final stretch, this Jayhawk squad is going to need a spark, and Lightfoot appears to be a prime candidate to step into those shoes.
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