LAWRENCE (KSNT)- Mitch Lightfoot arrived at KU in the summer of 2016. His time on the Jayhawk basketball roster lasted all the way into the spring of 2022.

Lightfoot’s a Jayhawk for life in more ways than one. When asked if this season felt a little weird without Lightfoot being around for the first time in a long time head coach Bill Self couldn’t help but smile.

“It was weirder when he was here,” Self joked.

He’s not necessarily wrong. It’s not often a college basketball player stays for six years. Lightfoot was crucial to the Jayhawks’ 2021-22 National Title, Self says.

“Mitch was a great complimentary guy,” Self said. “He had the perfect role for our team last year… and Mitch understood that. He was more valuable to us than what his numbers ever showed.”

“We love Mitch,” Self said. “And we miss him.”

Lightfoot was so good in his final season for KU that Self says there were even conversations about playing him more than David McCormack.

“The only reason you wouldn’t keep going with [David McCormack] is because Mitch [Lightfoot] is good enough to be that guy,” Self said.

Both those big guys down low were key pieces of last year’s KU team. Self says replacing them will be hard.

“We’re going to miss Mitch, we’re going to miss David,” Self said. “I never knew we’d probably miss them as much as we are right now.”

They ‘Hawks will look to a mix of new and returning players to fill the holes left from those two veteran KU forwards.

“We’re going to miss those guys a lot, but we got young guys,” Self said. “It’s just going to take some time for them to grow into it.”

KJ Adams, Cam Martin and Zach Clemence are among the returners who could play the post. In terms of newcomers Kansas expects Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar to play a versatile role that could certainly include power forward. Other first year Jayhawks who could step up in this spot include Ernest Udeh Jr. and Zuby Ejiofor.

“This year what’s going to be more difficult is, do you have a guy that can get you ten [points] and six [rebounds] in a real game?” Self said. “It’s going to be hard. Those young kids are young. They weren’t recruited to be those guys right off the bat, even though they have to be that way.”

The Jayhawks open their season on Monday, Nov. 7 against Omaha in Lawrence.