Tuesday, October 18, 2011

KU coach Bill Self: Elijah Johnson might ‘blow up’

Kansas junior guard Elijah Johnson.

Kansas junior guard Elijah Johnson.


Elijah Johnson — who has not played significant minutes in his two-year Kansas University basketball career— enters 2011-12 as a candidate for a breakout season in the Jayhawk backcourt.

“He has a chance to blow up. He does,” KU coach Bill Self said of the 6-foot-4 junior combo guard who averaged 3.4 points and 1.8 assists in 13.7 minutes a game his sophomore season. “He’s been very impressive to us (since end of last season). He’s been a kid for whatever reason has not quite put it all together yet. He needs to put it together for us to have our best chance. I think we haven’t seen a glimpse of what he can be. He’s one of the better all-around guards we’ve recruited since we’ve been here. He just hasn’t had a chance to show it.”

Johnson, who averaged 15.9 points and 4.8 assists a game his senior year at Las Vegas Cheyenne High, appreciates his coach remaining in his corner.

“To hear him say I’m improved … that means a lot. It means I’m doing what this team needs me to do,” Johnson said.

The area on which he has improved the most?

“Being a leader,” Johnson said. “Really just that. I feel everything else just falls into place.”

As far as on-court production, Johnson is KU’s leading returning three-point shooter. He hit 22 of 55 last year for 40 percent.

“I guess that means I get to shoot a little bit, huh?” Johnson said with a smile. “I plan on knocking my shots down, making open shots.”

His length and athleticism could prove beneficial on defense.

“I just take it as ... I don’t even want to say as a challenge. I feel disrespected when someone tries to dribble and go past me nowadays,” Johnson said. “My attitude has changed. Someone scores on me, I take it personal. Even if you can’t see it on my face, I take it personal nowadays. I think coach Self put that in me.”

Self has said the Jayhawks may run a bit more this year as they take advantage of a backcourt that includes ultra-athletic Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor.

“They’ve become close, kind of bonded more. Maybe it’s because they know they have to lean on each other a lot. I think that could be a good backcourt,” Self said.

“I feel we can be a real good (backcourt),” Johnson noted in agreement. “I feel there’s really three of us. I feel like Thomas (Robinson) is a big guard. He just runs like a guard. He just runs, he runs, he runs, he runs. He’s so athletic. I feel like he’s 6-4, but he’s really 6-9. With Tyshawn running one wing and me on the other wing and Thomas coming down the middle, how would you look at it if you were on defense?”

KU’s backcourt-mates are so close that Johnson refers to Taylor as “his twin.”

“Our games are similar,” Taylor said. “We both like to get up and down. We know where we are going to be. We’ve spent a lot of time together in the offseason working out. We’re comfortable with each other.”

The country knows all about Taylor, KU’s first four-year starter since Aaron Miles.

As far as Johnson, just a few years ago he arrived on campus as’s No. 24-rated player overall and No. 4-rated point guard in the Class of ’09 behind only John Wall (Kentucky, now in the NBA), Abdul Gaddy (Washington junior) and Eric Bledsoe (Kentucky, NBA).

His name just hasn’t been mentioned as much since then. Johnson did not receive any votes for honorable mention in this year’s preseason Big 12 coaches poll.

“Nope, not mad at all,” Johnson said, asked if he was bothered by the snub. “Let them keep talking (about others). Like I sad earlier, we need somebody to talk. I can’t be mad if my name is not mentioned.”

Matt Kamalsky of thinks many may know Johnson’s name at the end of this season.

“Johnson is not the first highly-touted recruit to start his career on the bench, and he would not be the first less-than-experienced prospect to put it all together as an upperclassmen either,” Kamalsky writes on his website. “While he has yet to prove the things he’ll need to prove in order to legitimize his draft stock, he has proven to be an efficient role-player, and has all the tools to be successful when he begins to see significant minutes. For those reasons alone, Johnson is a player to pay especially close attention to this season as he could rocket up draft boards and a prospect we’ll surely be revisiting as he teams up with Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson to step up in place of the Morris twins. Elijah Johnson’s time seems to have finally arrived in Lawrence.”


ajhk 2 years, 6 months ago

I loved both B Morn and T Reed. Loved their attitude, heart, determination, sweat , guts, solid play, team adhesive properties and just loved them as Jayhawks.
But...EJ and Releford both have higher individual ceilings. I will greatly enjoy watching these two play as I feel their quickness and explosiveness can change games abruptly. As for TT, I have always been concerned with his focus and decision making. I always felt he would falter in the higher pressure games. Concluding the last few games of the past year, he showed me how wrong I was. It seems his confidence is greater and skills are honed. I hope his maturation continues because we all know he's a freak athletically.
I think we could have a VERY fun backcourt.


Kye Clark 2 years, 6 months ago

I hope he does "blow up". The only downside to EJ, or Releford & Withey for that matter, "blowing up" is that if they do we'll have these clowns on here calling out Self for not playing them sooner, exclaiming "SEE!!!! If you'd have been playing these guys (and would have listened to me!) the past two seasons we'd have atleast one more National Championship!!! Now his explosive play is being wasted during these relative 'down' years!" While I suppose it is possible, maybe we can make room for the possibility that players develop the more time they spend in the program. Maybe, And that the previous two seasons of EJ's career he wasn't doing enough, both in practice and when he got on the floor, to warrant more minutes. For some posters (ahem, KULA) it's a lose-lose situation here. Some people simply aren't happy unless they are whining about something.


DukeNukem 2 years, 6 months ago

Oh, thank god. I thought Elijah was a suicide terrorist, when I read the title. He makes a way better basketball player anyways.


jaybate 2 years, 6 months ago

"Some Suggestions for Dealing with EJ Blast Effect in Allen Field House."

~Fans in the first thirty rows should wear asbestos long johns.

~All fans should keep their NOAA radios tuned to a Civil Defense frequency for further instructions.

~Fans should estimate the highest hops possible by Elijah, as being the likely highest elevation for atmospheric detonation, and then swap expensive court side seats for seats at least thirty rows higher than estimated highest hop.

~ Fans should tape measure likely blast effect from trifecta line where Elijah will often be launching, figure ground zero effect will extend at least 200 feet in every direction. Avoid ground zero area at all costs, for even tennis shoes will be turned into green glass there.

~Remember to wear DoD approved blast goggles and Banana Boat Sport Performance SPF 100 sun screen at all times in the field house.

~Be sure to carry potable water and a weeks supply of canned goods, when attending games where Self is apt to amp EJ out through the roof, and so generate an exponential increase in blast effect.

~Know that shock waves from EJ blowing up can cause internal bleeding and severe brain trauma that can only be treated by intravenous injections of Coors, or Bud at the Wheel.

~Male students remember that female students traumatized by blast effect will likely be more willing to mate, due to a primitive reproductive survival instinct being triggered.

~Faculty be prepared for most students coming to class the following day and claiming that the EJ blow up triggered an energy pulse that erased their hard drives so they require more time to get term papers in for grading.

~Coaches remember that wives will not accept EJ having blown up as an excuse for not taking out the trash, or shoveling the drive way come February.

(Note: All fiction. No malice.)


Hawk62492 2 years, 6 months ago

This feels a lot like last year, doesn't it? A whole lot of "ifs." What if Markieff Morris didn't tow the line down low? (He did.) What if Thomas Robinson wasn't reliable enough to prove the Twins valuable relief? (He was.) What if Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar weren't able to knock down shots? (They were.) I trust Coach Self with those developmental "ifs" that plague us fans in the offseason. IF Elijah Johnson can become a consistent scoring option at the 2, IF Travis Releford continues his trademark defense and likewise exhibits an improved offensive game, IF Tyshawn Taylor picks up where he left off at the end of last season, IF Thomas Robinson lives up to his potential — look, they will. The presence of those "ifs" doesn't concern me anymore. I've read a lot of doomsday prognostications on these boards, but I actually think this could be a fun season.

Also, hate to shamelessly plug, but I've been working on a little college basketball blog for a while. My latest post previews some tantalizing non-conference match-ups, and I'd be grateful if some of you checked it out. The KU-Kentucky and KU-OSU games are both analyzed, and you might be pleased with my projections. Me, a KU fan and unbiased college basketball blogger? I won't tell if you don't. Here's the blog:


lee3022 2 years, 6 months ago

I want to speak to coaching philosophy for a moment. Too often fans see winning each game as the primary function of a coach. Probably the greatest college coach of all time, John Wooden disagreed. He said his job was to teach life principles and basketball principles (in that order) to his players and the wins would take care of themselves.

Coach Self subscribes to a similar philosophy. Players that come to KU are not here to be showcased. They are here to learn as students - academically and athletically. Elijah is an excellent example. Headstrong, often out of control, Elijah was provided playing time but did not earn many minutes. This allowed coach to teach him life lessons about working hard for what he gets. This approach is opposite from many coaches who pander to top recruits and fail to prepare them for life and the NBA. Getting drafted is not the point. Being successful in the NBA is far more important than draft position. Players that spend three years here sound more mature, play more mature and succeed more in their future. I admire this approach and support our coaching staff as committed to the players personal and professional development.


Tony Bandle 2 years, 6 months ago

KY Jelly works great on squeeky door hinges.


bennybob 2 years, 6 months ago

"Self has said the Jayhawks may run a bit more this year as they take advantage of a backcourt that includes ultra-athletic Johnson and Tyshawn Taylor."

Self says that every preseason and with the exception of '07 and '08, every year we end playing the same conservative half court offense.

the hi-lo is great, and nobody can coach it better than Self, but his system does not lend itself to up tempo play.

If you werent going to push the pace with the front court you had last year, your definetly not going to do it with Jeff Withey as a projected starter this year.


Benjamin Piehler 2 years, 6 months ago

I've been sayin it to my buddies all summer; I think EJ could have a breakout year.


Larry Smith 2 years, 6 months ago

I always wonder why idiots like KULA think that coach Self doesn't run on offense. KU runs when there is opportunity and runs a highly efficient half court offense when the break is not there. So I ask you KULA, who would you consider a running team? Carolina? Kentucky? Louisville? Memphis? Duke? Texas? Well, none of these Teams had a higher PPG average last year than KU. As a matter of fact, I would challenge you to find two teams from a major conference that scored more than KU. Good luck with that, because there aren't two. And all of this from a slow walk it up, pass around the perimeter for 20 seconds offense. You, my friend are an idiot.


Tony Bandle 2 years, 6 months ago

Things I would like to see this year from the bball team:

1] Less of the center setting a double pick at the head of the key then watching as an opponent beats him to make a basket, draw a foul or both. 2] When our guards drive the lane , stop and pop that 7 foot jumper and avoid the charging foul. 3] Contest every opponent three pointer. 4] Mix in a full court press a little more. 5] Maybe keep Brady on the bench a little longer [oh wait, no problem!!] 6] See if Withey can hit that 10 footer on a pass back from a triple-teamed TRob. 7] Give Elijah the green light and leave him in if it doesn't work every time. 8] Improved foul shooting %'s from EVERYONE!! 9] Kansas Cheerleader girls in thong bikinis [ well, I can dream, can't I??] 10] Decent refereeing [Now I'm really dreaming!!] ,


cajayfan 2 years, 6 months ago

No injuries and Thomas get your free throw shooting to 75%. Then, maybe we will be ok.


kufankam 2 years, 6 months ago


wissoxfan83 got me thinking and i always go back to this as one of the most impressive HS stats i have ever seen. mario's senior year, he AVERAGED 8.0 steals a game!!!!!! seriously! to average 8 steals in a 32 minute game is unreal! i don't care if it is 4A, 6A or whatever, that is some serious ball-hawking. of course, this is no news to jayhawk fans as we have seen mario's abilities to get his hands on the ball. i just really love that stat... it is quite impressive!


lrahardja 2 years, 6 months ago

EJ has been my favorite player. Continue to show leaderships, need to leverage your teammates' strength, be aggressive and distribute the ball to make play, continue to develop your long range and establish mid-range pull ups, and be in control at all time. You will get tons of playing time and blossom into the player you're capable.


William Blake 2 years, 6 months ago

We'll know when EJ hits his top potential...

when he takes off from the opposing team's FT line and goes airborne 3/4s of the floor length for a slam! Anything short of that and he'll still have potential yet to be achieved.


SaulGood 2 years, 6 months ago

Releford! Releford! Releford! Can you imagine? Our 3-pt stats stand an emphatic very strong chance of looking absolutely insane this year. We've got 1-2-3 that can all shoot lights out on the right night, freeing up Beastmaster Robinson to grab up offensive boards and dump in 15-30 per night. This is probably the best I've felt in several preseasons about our team in a little while, at least since '07-'08.

I love this joke: What do you get when you cross a Mack truck with a Dyson vacuum cleaner? Thomas Robinson. (Told that joke last year, still love it today)

Rock Chalk!


Steve Gantz 2 years, 6 months ago

I don't understand how when a player averages less than 15 points and less than 5 assists per game in HS he becomes the #4 rated guard in the nation. I do understand that HS games are shorter, thus stats are lower. It'd be interesting to compare his HS stats with other guards that have played here. I'm guessing that Mario, Kirk, Miles, jacque, etc all had more impressive looking HS stats. Maybe someone here knows.


Steve Brown 2 years, 6 months ago

Jbate. ???? let us have it.

You are going to share that TRob will be double teamed, TT quickness will have to be played straight up and close so that EJ and Releford will get open shots.

Nothing but net.


Brian Powell 2 years, 6 months ago

been saying that since his freshman year..


middleoftheroader 2 years, 6 months ago

I believe Missouri just gave Kansas City to Jayhawk fans, and if Bill Self is smart (which he is) he'll schedule alot of games in the Sprint Center to keep it that way.


ParisHawk 2 years, 6 months ago

Correct me if I'm wrong, but last year EJ mostly backed up Taylor at point and Tyrel at the 2, whereas Brady mostly played the 3. Brady took more minutes from Releford than from EJ, but Releford got hurt at a bad time.

Last year we had some great half-court offense: why run all the time?

This year we are thin, so I don't expect a lot of fast breaks or pressure defense.

Some posters here remind me of the French: winning isn't enough, you have to win it all and play beautifully.


Jayhawk1116 2 years, 6 months ago

Spontaneous Combustion is very real. Stay alert, stay informed America.


Sally Presson 2 years, 6 months ago

KULA--Bill doesn't need to call Roy for ANY advice. You are a downer, we don't need your posts. I'm happy for Elijah, he's waited and will now be rewarded. What a great young man. Before we bash the coaches, you ought to know what goes on at practice, sometimes it takes those growing years for a player to come into his own. And this is Elijah's year. I really look forward to watching EJ play this year.

Rock Chalk


Steve Kubler 2 years, 6 months ago

"Self has said the Jayhawks may run a bit more this year" -- and they say speed kills! I would love to see a KU team that can run an opponent into the ground. It might not be as elegant as the slower paced high/low offense however the fun factor jumps off the chart. I am worried about depth although I think our guard complement is solid enough to run all game.

I agree this team does not appear to be the overwhelming favorite many seem prefer. This year we are not going to be able to assume who wins a game. There will be suspense, more excitement, and yes some agony. I am okay with that, I'll curse the losses, froth at the mouth at freshman mistakes, and perhaps take HCBS's name in vain. At the same time I will savor the wins more this year just because they will be less expected.

After all, if you knew your team was going to win every game why bother watching?


JHawk74 2 years, 6 months ago

It is time for Johnson to step up and show that he deserve to be a starter for a Top 5 program in the country.


lama 2 years, 6 months ago

Inexplicable that he didn't play more last year ahead of Brady.


William Blake 2 years, 6 months ago

"Elijah Johnson’s time seems to have finally arrived in Lawrence.”

The last line says it all...


clevelandjayhawker 2 years, 6 months ago

Should be a fun year....EJ/Jeff/Travis are the "unknowns" and we need to avoid foul trouble with our bigs. NCAA really f'd us over but next years "class" should be fun too.

Cant wait to see how many guys rotate in and out...I know HCBS likes to do about 7-8 but i think this year its going to 8-9 and may have to do some zone.


lothario64118 2 years, 6 months ago

He'll have a chance to blow up because Self won't be able to pull him off the court due to a mistake he made. EJ will have to learn and play through and gain experience on the court, not on the bench. I wish Self would let the players learn and not have a pissy fit when something happens he doesn't approve of from a player.


justinryman 2 years, 6 months ago

If he "blows up".

TRobb plays in "Beast mode"

TT plays "within himself."

And the "rest just falls into place"

Can't wait and see what this season will bring.

It sounds as if there aren't as many attitudes on this team to feed, so it could be a fun season of a lot of highlight passes and incredible plays!!!!!

GET SOME!!!!!!!!


keith horinek 2 years, 6 months ago

While I believe we will be a little thinner this year and maybe a little weaker at the 4 and 5 positions, I think we will compete. This team will revolve around Taylor and Robinson, no doubt. 25 wins this year is achievable. Will we compete for the big 12 championship? Highly unlikely, however the big 12 is somewhat down this year so I believe we will have a chance if we play well. Programs like KU, UNC, Duke, need a down year to keep them human. If we won the big 12 every year and took a no. 1 seed into the tournament every year, fans would come to expect that and not appreciate what it takes to be a premier program. It really does take a lot of work to be at this level and I for one fully appreciate what we have in HCBS and his crew.


Ben Kane 2 years, 6 months ago

I've been waiting to see this kid get his chance for 2 years. Bring it EJ!


hawkster007 2 years, 6 months ago

Geez KULA, if I had a thimble, I would put your basketball knowledge in it! Duh, we had the Morris twins + Robinson last year who were darn good at putting it in the bucket playing the high-low game in a half-court offense, so that is why Self did not run the ball!! I suppose you think Brady, Taylor and Reed were better options on the fast break! Go watch the NBA if that is what u want... KU will be fine this year, Self will put it all together again, plus it helps that the Big 12 conference is down in talent (IMO). KU won't have any big man depth or much experience off the bench, but Self normally gets his rotation down to 7 players by conference time anyway, so if a couple guys like Teahan and Tharpe can come off the bench that will be fine, although Young or Wesley will have to play well enough to steal some minutes at the 4/5 spots. KU will lose at Allen this year, but that happens. Last recruiting year was an anomaly, as even Self admits that most of the high level recruits committed very early in the process and Self did not know who was coming back (Markieff, Robinson, Taylor?) so he was at a disadvantage in recruiting - - you can't promise scholarships and then not give them, that word gets around real quick to future recruits. Go Hawks...


tis4tim 2 years, 6 months ago

When I read the title of this article, my first thought was that E.J. had become the new drummer for Spinal Tap.


jhox 2 years, 6 months ago

I've been impressed with Johnson's maturity and patience since the day he arrived on campus. I'm glad to see he's finally going to get a chance to a big contributor. His athleticism is second to none. It's tough to play 2 or 3 minutes a game, and to come in and be impressive. I look for several people to have break out seasons this year. Johnson, Releford and Withey will all benefit from having an opportunity to play through a few of their mistakes, and get comfortable in game situations.


hardwork1998 2 years, 6 months ago



Hinrichisgod 2 years, 6 months ago

Brady may not have put up 20 ppg, but anybody judging a player based on offensive production alone shouldn't be judging basketball success/potential. Brady was a lock-down, solid defender with an extremely high basketball I.Q., seeing the court well above the rest. Self putting Brady in the rotation the past season above EJ isn't being remotely timid or attempting to pump the breaks when he put together an offensive scheme. The number one offensive priority was running an offense that got the ball to an established Marcus or Markieff, whether it be through ball reversal, running screens, or hitting them trailing. The second priority was finding the open man by constantly moving the ball.

Brady not only played defense on top players offensively, but hit open shots. More importantly, he found the open man, and more times than not, was able to do so without forcing an unneeded pass. Could Elijah have done the same given the opportunity? Maybe. But Self went with experience over talent. That in and of itself has proven to be successful more than the other way around. History has time and time again proven that point.

Self isn't the perfect coach. There isn't one. Hindsight is 20/20. If you're looking for a coach that caters to please the fans with disregard to a basketball mindset that has not only won an NCAA title and 7 straight Big XII titles, but is also one that is believed in, go and pat Calipari and his hype on the back. You might even be able to catch a few dead presidents falling from Rupp Arena's rafters while you're at it.

Elijah is a guard that has the potential to put up solid numbers offensively, as well as taking his defensive role personally. Anyone who has witnessed Coach Self, as well as Coach Manning, knows that he has the knowledge and foresight that very few other D-1 coaches contain when it comes to player-development and program building.

Everyone has their time. This season is Tyshawn's, Thomas', Travis',Elijah's time. Rock Chalk.


LAJayhawk 2 years, 6 months ago

"He’s one of the better [Fill in the Blank] we’ve recruited since we’ve been here."

I love ya, Coach Self. You know I love ya. But you gotta find a different phrase for praising a player.

If this phrase were a donut, I'm fairly certain you would be Homer Simpson in the "Ironic Punishment Division" of Hell......

"...mmmmm, forbidden donut...."


KULA 2 years, 6 months ago

Gee, why hasn't he had a chance to show it, coach? Oh, now I remember--because we had Brady's gaudy 6 ppg the last two years.

And we might run more this year to take advantage of EJ & Tyshawn's speed? Didn't we have them both last year, along with Josh? But we still walked it up the court and passed it around the perimeter for 20 seconds every possession.

And even if they do run, it's obvious Bill hasn't taught them anything about running a fast break if they're talking about Thomas in the middle. It's basic grade school basketball--get the ball to a guard in the middle. Give Roy a call if you still don't get it coach. It's obvious Bill doesn't practice the fast break enough cuz when they ran one last year, more often than not, they screwed it up. He even admitted it himself last year, saying at one point that maybe they need to practice it more.

And watch that attitude EJ--show some fire and exuberance and you'll probably find yourself on the bench for the rest of the game.

Amazing that Bill couldn't find playing time for the #4 guard in the country, behind only players who are now in the NBA. Especially on a team that's had the highest margin on victory the last two years.


waywardJay 2 years, 6 months ago

biggest reason to expect success this year... We have two proven guards who can deliver in different ways, Tyshawn's ability to get in the lane and Elijah's composure


manginorh00lz 2 years, 6 months ago

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