Monday, June 15, 2009
Freshman guard Elijah Johnson talks about why he decided to choose KU.
Elijah Johnson doesn’t expect any good-natured ribbing or hazing from Kansas University’s basketball veterans in coming days.
“Nah, that’s not how the players are here. They try to make you feel as comfortable as they can,” said Johnson, Kansas University’s 6-foot-2 freshman guard from Las Vegas’ Cheyenne High who graduated Thursday and arrived to a warm welcome in Lawrence on Saturday afternoon.
“They want everybody to be at their top point. You can’t get somebody to their top point coming down on them like they are freshmen,” added Johnson, who averaged 15.9 points and 3.9 assists per game his senior season.
Johnson was happy — almost relieved —to be signing autographs for coach Bill Self’s campers for two hours Sunday, his first official assignment as a member of KU’s team.
“I’m a little tired. We did a lot after graduation,” Johnson said of him and family members back in Vegas. “I’m really happy to be on campus, having fun, learning a little something from coach and playing some basketball finally.
“I’m pretty sure I’m going to be happy — a little homesick, but more so happy.”
Rivals.com’s No. 24-rated player in the Class of 2009 has realistic expectations for his first collegiate season.
“Giving an extra boost of energy that they didn’t have last year even if it’s from the sideline,” Johnson said. “I’m just ready to help the team out, being more so a point guard and being able to make open shots and playing defense 24-7. Well, not 24-7, it’s not high school anymore. But playing defense 40 minutes a game if I had to.”
Johnson is known for his athleticism, which he exhibited on the vicious dunk that concluded the Derby Classic all-star game in Louisville.
He grinned when asked to reveal his vertical leap in inches.
“I don’t know. The last time I checked it was 39, and that was my freshman year of high school,” he said. “Actually, that’s something I want to find out real soon. I’m thinking it’s 43, 44 or something.”
He’s hoping to put down some slams that impress his hero, KU senior guard Sherron Collins.
“He’s been here the longest. I’ve been wanting to play with him since his freshman year,” the longtime KU fan said. “We’ve got some trademarks. He did some crazy dunks at the end of some all-star games, and I have, too. He’s a big-dog senior that already has a lot of NBA teams looking at him. I will look at Sherron and learn how to get as much out of this experience as I can.”
He’ll immediately begin bonding with Jayhawker Towers roommate Thomas Robinson, a fellow freshman who arrived last week and has been waiting patiently for Johnson to arrive.
“He was my roommate at the Reebok game out in D.C.,” Johnson said. “It felt good to know he’s my roommate here. We’ve got a little chemistry already. We pretty much know about each other.”
Johnson didn’t even hog the space in the duo’s apartment.
“Nah, we both got the room we wanted. We’re all right,” Johnson said. “I think he was happy to see me (Saturday).”