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Sam's siblings: Cunliffe shares special bond with sisters, finds brother in Lightfoot

Kansas guard Sam Cunliffe tries to get a laugh out of Mitch Lightfoot while playing reporter during Media Day on Friday, Oct. 13, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse. Members of the men's basketball team were available for photographs and interviews with various media outlets.

While going through the transfer process, having family members to reach out to wasn't an issue for Kansas redshirt sophomore Sam Cunliffe after moving on from Arizona State last winter.

The Seattle, Wash., native and Arizona State transfer has remained close with his family — especially his eight sisters — despite no longer living in Pac-12 country. What has made life in Lawrence easier for Cunliffe over the past year, though, is that he's continued to build a friendship with someone whom he views as a brother.

When Cunliffe was granted his release from Arizona State, the 6-foot-6 guard was contacted by Gilbert, Ariz., native and Kansas sophomore Mitch Lightfoot about becoming a Jayhawk. Cunliffe and Lightfoot's paths first crossed at the 2015 Under Armour All-American camp, and they've been best buds ever since.

"That's where I met him. He was on my team there," said Cunliffe of Lightfoot. "He was an Arizona guy and I committed to Arizona State. When I was transferring, he hit me up."

In his one semester at Arizona State, Cunliffe averaged 9.5 points and 4.5 rebounds while starting 10 games for the Sun Devils. Cunliffe has come off the bench in his three games as a Jayhawk, averaging just more than 10 minutes per contest. His best showing came against Omaha, where he made 4 of his 9 shots for nine points and added two rebounds, two assists and a steal.

With potential freshmen additions Silvio De Sousa and Billy Preston possibly vying for major minutes as Big 12 play approaches with Friday's 8 p.m. road tilt at Texas, playing time could become harder to come by for Cunliffe and Lightfoot. Even before the season started, though, Lightfoot said at KU men's basketball media day that they both have similar mindsets when it comes to how they can best help the Jayhawks.

"I think the biggest thing with Sam is knowing that the intangibles are super valuable at this level," Lightfoot said. "A couple of extra possessions is going to mean six more points and that's the difference in a lot of games. I think me and him just going back and forth after practice talking about how those intangibles is just so important at this level."

Along with bonding over basketball, Cunliffe and Lightfoot have become even closer off the court, too.

"I've been friends with him since I was a junior in high school. He's my roommate, so a lot of joking, a lot of hanging out," Cunliffe said. "He's my guy, though. We hang out and talk about just about anything. He's been my closest friend here, for sure, but sometimes you couldn't tell because there is a lot of joking and a lot of fun stuff going on."

While Lightfoot has helped Cunliffe feel at home this past year by giving him another easy going personality to confide in, the transfer process was something the former Sun Devil did not take lightly.

One of Sam's sisters was able to give him some guidance from being in a similar situation as a college freshman. Hannah Cunliffe started her collegiate track and field career at Oklahoma before transferring to Oregon following the first outdoor meet of her freshman campaign in the spring of 2015.

Hannah's speed has turned her into a star on the track at Oregon. The Oregon sprinter was named as the 2017 USTFCCCA Women's Indoor Track Athlete of the Year after setting an NCAA record in the 60-meter dash, and was also a part of the NCAA record-setting 4x100-and 4x200-meter relay teams. Hannah has experienced her fair share of heartbreak with the Ducks as well, though, with the last two outdoor seasons being cut short because of a hamstring injury.

According to Sam, the ups and downs in his, Hannah's and all of his siblings' athletic careers have helped keep them close.

"I love my sisters, man. They're my best friends," Cunliffe said. "I talk to them all day — most of the time through Snapchat. It's been good. I've just been talking to them, being in their lives and trying to be a good example. I try to be there for them if anybody messes up. It's been good."

While Sam continues to keep up with his sisters' accomplishments, he's eager for the chance to start making some memories of his own with the 14th-ranked Jayhawks (10-2) now that he's no longer confined to the bench.

"I really do love it here. Most of the time, guys go to college and have really big dreams and want to play in the NBA and get out early and all that," Cunliffe said. "I love where I'm at. As long as I can be here, I want to be here. It's a good place for me."


Henry Joseph Hofmeister

Man if I could go back I would. Hopefully he and lightfoot have enough fun to stay and graduate. I can only imagine the pair of them as seniors.

4 years, 9 months ago


Kent Richardson

We will need all we can squeeze out of Sam and Silvio (I hope the NCAA doesn't' drag their feet and Silvio doesn't see time against Texas).

This BIG XII group has had a preconference that seems pretty amazing.
102 wins and 16 losses. Have a guess what the last 61 games played looks like? How about 61-zip.

Only Texas has three losses.

Of course that all goes to heck and contenders and pretenders will be revealed. I see us as a definite contender for sure but who else? We have four guys averaging 15 points plus. Geez. Number fourteen may come down to the last week, again.

At the week before conference begins it looks like the possible all BIG XII players are:

Trae Young G, OU 1st in scoring, 1st in assists, 5th in steals.

DeVonte Graham G, KU 5th in scoring, 2nd in assists, 3rd in steals

Kenrich Williams G, TCU 15th scoring, 3rd rebounds, 2nd steals

Jevon Carter G, WVU 3rd scoring, 4th assists, 1st steals

And maybe:

Vladimir Brodziansky F , TCU

Dylan Osetkowski F, TEX

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk G, KU

Udoka Azubuike C, KU

Lagerald Vick G, KU

4 years, 9 months ago


Henry Joseph Hofmeister

i haven't been as scared of a player since durant or maybe blake was in our conference. trae is insane smooth. as far as four guys averaging 15, well that's expected with the depth and minutes. i want to see devonte and svi take trae down on his bragging about taking down kansas this year. D guys step up. the most important game(s) of the season for d.

4 years, 9 months ago


Austin Lopez

I think Buddy Hield was much scarer, a guy that could go for 40 a game if he wanted to and he had a much better supporting cast around him than young has. Alec Burks was also a scary guy that could drop buckets in a matter of minutes but Colorado never had a strong supporting cast, By the time Jacob Pullen Junior year came around he was a scary guard also, had a strong tough team, but Kevin Durant was by far the scariest guy Kansas has faced. Young doesn't scare me not one bit as Kevin Durant did, we had some miracles sent our way when we faced of against Kevin Durant and he had a good team around him also. Young is a one show pony for Oklahoma, shut him down and we win. His supporting cast isn't as strong as past freshman that lit the BIG12 up like KD.

4 years, 9 months ago


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