CLAREMONT, Calif. -- About seven minutes into Sunday’s Top 20 game at the conclusion of the Under Armour Top 100 Camp, Gilbert (Ariz.) Surrey Garden Christian center Mitch Lightfoot and the rest of the starting lineup was pulled off the court, to get minutes for the camp’s other top performers.
Lightfoot was not pleased. He stayed on the court, and after finally being cajoled to the sideline, refused to sit down. Instead, he clapped, cheered, waved his arms and positioned his teammates from the sideline, pointing out backdoor cuts and open passing lanes.
If there’s one thing Lightfoot hates, it’s coming off the floor. There is, however, one thing he hates more: Losing.
After stepping off a plane on Saturday, following a tournament camp in North Carolina, he immediately hit the floor for the Double Pump AAU event, and scored 28 points, pulled down 16 rebounds and tallied seven blocks in a 101-97 loss. He wasn’t tired. He was ticked.
“When I got done with that, there was obviously the adrenaline rush, still, but I hate losing. We lost by four,” Lightfoot said. “I wanted to figure out what I could do better, so I went back and watched film, and I really wanted to figure out how I could beat that team.”
Even though he was working on little rest, after a full weekend of competition in three different locales – Charlotte, NC; Claremont, Calif.; and Anaheim, Calif. -- Lightfoot was still aggressive on defense Sunday, changing shot angles with his long arms, and having enough lift in his legs to nail several three-pointers.
[MEMBERS: Top 100 Video And Recruiting Update on Miles Norris]
Standing at 6-foot-9, 205 pounds, Lightfoot has been on the market now for about three months, ever since he decommitted from New Mexico, and there are a lot of schools coming in for him.
“Arizona, Kansas, Stanford, Utah – those schools – and then Cal just jumped in two weeks ago, so I’m just now finding out about them,” Lightfoot said. “I recently got back from an Under Armour All-American Camp yesterday (Saturday) at 2:00, and I played a game right after that, so I’m kind of dead right now. I’m trying to figure out all the East Coast school interest, and see if that would spark any up, but if not, there are plenty of great schools on the West Coast that are recruiting me.”
"I like to be the highest-motor kid in the gym, on the court, in the state, in the nation." -- Mitch Lightfoot
California head coach Cuonzo Martin -- fresh off of two major recruiting victories in 2015 five-stars Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown -- personally watched Lightfoot on Sunday, and has taken the lead on recruiting the lengthy shooter, offering him on Monday afternoon.
“I talk to their coach probably twice, three times a day, honestly,” Lightfoot said. “They’re really interested in me, and I’m really interested in them. I want to go out there and see what it’s like at Cal Berkeley, figure out what they’re about.”
One of the big reasons Martin and the Bears are so interested in Lightfoot is that aforementioned toughness and tenacity. He plays with such determination that, while working out at Arizona Power Academy with Oregon forward Jordan Bell, Bell thought Lightfoot was already a college player.
“Jordan was just coming back to Phoenix to train with coach Sundance, in Phoenix, for six weeks – Sundance Wicks, who’s now at San Francisco,” Lightfoot said. “He used to be a trainer at Power Academy, and Jordan was there, at Power Academy. I went into the gym one day, and all of the sudden there’s this 6-8, super-athletic dude there, and we started working out.”
Bell and Lightfoot battled for an hour and a half that first time out, and went on to work together for “a good four weeks,” Lightfoot said.
“I just learned so much from him, worked out with him, learned the intensity,” Lightfoot said of the 6-foot-9, 215-pounder. “I learned the ropes of playing against players that are super-athletic and huge and driven. He’s a big guy.”
Lightfoot isn’t quite that size, yet (he still tips the scales at just over 200 pounds), and despite a fiendish weight-lifting regimen, he just can’t find a way to keep weight on, partially because of his demanding playing schedule.
“I eat a lot, but the thing with me is, I’m trying to eat so much, play so much, lift so much that the amount of food I’m putting in, it can’t keep up,” he said. “Once my metabolism tops off, I can put on that big, good weight, but right now, it’s going on, pound-by-pound.”
While Lightfoot may be a bit lean – the best comparison to his around-the-rim game is Cal’s own David Kravish -- he makes up for that lack of bulk with a very dangerous outside game. Playing on the same team with 2016 seven-footer Jayce Johnson on Sunday allowed Lightfoot to play more of the 3-4 role, as opposed to the 4-5 role he normally plays because of his length, and given his shooting prowess, it’s tough to think he won’t wind up as a 3-4 mix in college. Lightfoot and Johnson were on opposing sides at the Under Armour All-American Camp in Charlotte, but they didn’t square off directly.
“When we were at the thing in North Carolina, I had Thon Maker on my team, so I really got to play the three and the four, so that helped me figure out what I need to do, what I need to work on, and what I do do well,” said Lightfoot. “The things I need to work on – everyone needs to work on shooting, and that’s my thing. Today, I made my shots, but they need to get better. I need to work on my handle, too, so I can become more of a 3-4, instead of a 4-5.”
What Lightfoot does better than anything, is compete, and that’s one of the reasons why Martin has been so interested.
“The strongest part of my game is probably my intensity, my high motor. I like to be the highest-motor kid in the gym, on the court, in the state, in the nation. I like to be that guy,” Lightfoot said. And what does the Cal staff think of that? “They love it. They said they need someone like that to get to the Final Four. That’s my thing. Plus, they need players coming in, because they’re getting a couple players that are going to be one-and-done’s.”
Lightfoot is of course referring to Rabb and Brown – two of the top five players in the 2015 class. High praise, indeed.
“It tells me that they believe in me,” said Lightfoot. “It tells me that they want someone that can come in and play immediately, because they’re going to lose that firepower, so that’s important to me, that they believe in me. If they believe in me, that means that they’ll play me, and if they play me, I’ll show them what I can deliver to a team.”
Lightfoot is no lightweight in the classroom, either. With a 3.7 GPA, he’s already started knocking down college credits like so many jumpers.
“I take a number of college classes. I’ve been taking college classes since sophomore year – JuCo classes during the year, that count for college credit,” Lightfoot said. “I’ve taken biochemistry, I’ve taken college pre-calculus, I’ve taken college chemistry – lots of stuff like that. I also take a lot of AP classes. I have a bunch of those classes. It’s going to help for school, and it’ll allow me to have a lot more electives my freshman year. I like to prepare myself mentally and physically, so I want to get some of that side done.”