The five spot hasn’t performed up to Kansas head coach Bill Self’s standards to start the 2021-22 season.
The four players who make up the role – veterans David McCormack and Mitch Lightfoot, as well as freshmen Zach Clemence and KJ Adams – have combined to average 18.9 points and 12.1 rebounds per game this season. That’s slightly off the mark Bill Self said he would like to see from the position after naming Lightfoot the new starter over McCormack Monday.
“I think we can get 20 points and 12 rebounds out of that spot,” Self said.
The production from the two main guys, Lightfoot and McCormack, though, puts KU further under Self’s ideal threshold. Combined, the veterans post averages of 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds while playing about 82 percent of the five spot game minutes.
After finishing Big 12 play last season averaging 14.2 points and 6.4 rebounds and winning the conference’s Most Improved Player award, McCormack has labored to start the season, posting four games where he’s totaled no more than five points or five rebounds. McCormack’s shooting numbers have dropped as well. Last season, the senior from Norfolk, Virginia averaged 10.2 shots per game and had a field goal percentage of 51.5 percent. This year, McCormack averages just 6.3 shot attempts and is shooting 48.7 percent from the field.
Therefore, Self has decided to switch things up as conference play begins, tabbing Lightfoot to start. The super senior from Gilbert, Arizona has made the most of his touches this season, shooting 62.5 percent from the floor.
“Mitch has been more efficient when he’s gotten touches,” Self said. “Mitch isn’t going to get seven shots every game, but whatever he gets, if he positions himself right and we do a good job, I think he can put himself in position to be a good scorer for us.”
Self’s belief is that KU won’t be a terrific team this season unless it gets McCormack playing to his potential. He added the five spot doesn’t necessarily need to score a ton, but it needs to be efficient in doing so, regardless of who is in the game.
Besides Lightfoot and McCormack, Clemence and Adams have unique skill sets they can bring to the five spot. Clemence is a plus shooter who can stretch the floor. Adams’ motor leads to rebounds and assists. The KU staff has compared him to former Baylor Bear Mark Vital.
“KJ will get in there for two minutes at a time and give us some energy that we didn’t have at the beginning of the game or some spurts of the game,” Ochai Agbaji said. “That’s his role.”
Self said maybe there needs to be accountability for the older guys to produce, or he will go another direction with Adams and Clemence. He hopes Lightfoot and McCormack play well. And if they don’t?
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“We could go in a different direction,” Self said. “[Clemence and Adams] are too good of players not to play them if the other guys aren’t playing well.”
The fact of the matter is this – Self wants more consistency out of the five spot. McCormack hasn’t been providing that. For KU to be the team it wants to be, a national championship contender, the Jayhawks will need the five spot to perform.
“We’ve bet on David all along,” Self said. “So we’re not giving up on him. When he’s good, he’s better than anybody else when they’re good. But when he’s laboring a little bit, I do think those other guys are good enough that they can give us some more production.”
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