Wednesday, December 12, 2012

KU’s Elijah Johnson healing, feeling more like his high-flying self

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson throws a pass around Colorado forward Josh Scott during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson throws a pass around Colorado forward Josh Scott during the first half on Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012 at Allen Fieldhouse.


After playing the last few weeks with a banged-up knee, Kansas University senior point guard Elijah Johnson admitted he felt more like himself defensively during Kansas’ 90-54 victory over Colorado on Saturday.

“I felt like I was on a slip-and-slide,” Johnson said with a smile after the game. “You know when you’re a kid, the little slip-and-slide? The little water thing? I felt like that’s what I was on, because I was just so ... I don’t know. It was like no one could get around me. And when they did, I felt like I halfway bailed them out (not the injury).

“So I’m confident in that. That’s a plus.”

Johnson bruised his left knee in the KU men’s basketball team’s Nov. 20 victory over Saint Louis. It was the same knee he had surgery on in April.

The Las Vegas native appeared to have much better bounce against CU.

“I’m feeling real healthy right now,” Johnson said. “My knee hasn’t been feeling bad, but it just wasn’t feeling great. Right now, it’s feeling great. Just working out with ‘Cheddar’ (Bill Cowgill) every day — our trainer — he’s just getting me right, pushing me and making me do some things that I didn’t think that I could do. And I think it’s starting to show on the floor.”

Johnson said the sessions with Cowgill haven’t been fun.

“He usually tries to make me do something that he knows I don’t like to do, or something that my body responds to significantly,” Johnson said. “Lately, we’ve just been working on some explosion stuff, some lateral movement and just getting it going every day.”

This past week, Johnson said he’s felt more comfortable jumping, and because of that, he’s been doing it more.

His hops were on display after one particular KU missed jumper Saturday, as he skied high in the air to attempt a stickback dunk.

The ball soared just out of his reach.

“I was praying that that one came off, because I was going to show people, ‘Yeah, we’ve got three people dunking like that now at the perimeter position,’” Johnson said. “It’ll come in time. I’m not really rushing it. I’ve just got to keep my health up, make sure that my knee’s feeling good, my body’s feeling good, get proper rest and eat right, and I think you’ll see more of that.”

Johnson received a nice surprise during the game Saturday, as at halftime, he looked to the crowd thinking he might have seen his sister, Terrin.

The senior left his team’s layup line, walking toward the Colorado bench while squinting to try to figure out if he was actually seeing his sister.

Both Terrin and Elijah’s mother, Yolanda Brown, had made the trip from Indiana to watch him play without telling him they were coming.

“I looked up at halftime, and I saw my sister Terrin standing up. I thought I was tripping at first,” Johnson said. “Then I looked again, and I actually walked down there, and I saw them. It kind of just caught me off-guard.”

Johnson wrapped his arm around his sister during most of his postgame interview while his mother stood a few steps away in a red, “15 mom” T-shirt.

The two hadn’t seen him play in a game since KU took on Michigan State in Atlanta on Nov. 13.

“Whenever you see your family like that — and you’re not used to seeing your family — it always shoots some kind of adrenaline into your body,” said Johnson, who had six points on 2-for-2 shooting with two rebounds and two steals after halftime. “It definitely felt good.”

Lists: The NCAA on Tuesday named the top 75 all-time March Madness players, 25 all-time March Madness teams and 35 all-time Madness moments as part of its season-long celebration of 75 years of the NCAA Tournament.

Starting in January, fans will vote at to determine the top 15 all-time players in the NCAA Tournament, the single-best team and the single-best moment in tourney history.

KU’s Clyde Lovellette (Most Outstanding Player 1952), Wilt Chamberlain (MOP 1957) and Danny Manning (MOP 1988) are included on the top players list. KU’s 1952 team is the only Jayhawk national title team to be on the list of contenders.

KU’s comeback victory over Memphis in the 2008 title game made the best-moments list. The NCAA’s description of that victory follows: “Down nine with 2:12 left, Kansas cut into Memphis’ lead and had a chance to tie the national title game. Kansas junior Mario Chalmers, with two seconds remaining, shot over two Memphis defenders to tie the contest and set the stage for a Kansas win in OT.

Wiggins to visit: Andrew Wiggins, a 6-7 senior forward from Huntington (W.Va.) Prep who visited Florida State last weekend, will visit KU, Kentucky and North Carolina in coming months, reports. It’s possible Syracuse or Ohio State will land the fifth visit of’s No. 1-rated player in the Class of 2013. His mom (former Canadian Olympic track standout Marita Payne-Wiggins) and dad (former NBA player Mitchell Wiggins) both attended FSU.

Wiggins told zagsblog at the Marshall County Hoopfest he could envision playing alongside Kentucky signees Aaron and Andrew Harrison, 6-5 twins from Fort Worth, Texas. Aaron is ranked fourth and Andrew fifth in the class.

The country’s No. 2-rated player, Julius Randle (6-9 Prestonwood Christian, Plano, Texas) will visit KU for the KU-Texas game on Feb. 16.


MimiHawk 1 year, 4 months ago

"Johnson wrapped his arm around his sister during most of his postgame interview while his mother stood a few steps away in a red, “15 mom” T-shirt."

Did anyone get a photo of this?


Jeff Kilgore 1 year, 4 months ago

KU FANS. Where is the love for each other, for our fellow posters? I have thumbed each response. Get in the habit. WE ARE ALL KU FANS!!!


Woody Cragg 1 year, 4 months ago

My gut feeling is that EJ's been playing hurt. Maybe not just the knee, but he also has a chronically sloppy shoulder issue. JMO but I've thought he was only about 60-70%. Young man can flat out sky when he is healthy.


dgaskill 1 year, 4 months ago

CBS ever won against Michigan State? Just wondering


Steve Gantz 1 year, 4 months ago

The list of the 35 greatest tournies started out with '39 Oregon wins the first NCAA, then the next on the list was Loyola's stunner in '63. So for 24 years there were no stunning upsets, cinderellas, buzzer beaters, hot players?

KU/UNC in triple OT with Wilt doesn't qualify for a list like that? Really? What about NYU (I think) winning both the NCAA and NIT in the same year? The NIT was just as prestigious back then.


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

Part 4

Jamari is stuck at a wall right now. And because he only started playing ball as a junior, or senior in high school, he has less experience with breaking through walls. He has found his limits. He is a freaky combination I have never seen before. He has the athleticism and explosiveness of a good D1 player, but his skills are so limited in scoring and rebounding that his production makes others a better choice.

But it seems likely that he will get the hang of boarding, or shooting, or FTing, or some combination of them. And if he adds all three, his veteran experience and his explosiveness will combine with those basics to make him very hard for Randle to keep off the floor.

On the other hand, if Jamari evolves more like Justin and cannot add the attributes outlined above, then jamari will not be able to keep Randle off the floor, even with holes in Randle's game.

Lastly, the really interesting guy is Landen Lucas. To me, he had everything this year but the explosiveness. If a year of physical-mental maturity and weight work turn on the explosiveness switch on, then Landen is going to be as tough to keep off the floor as Cole and Withey have proven to have been. I don't see Landen ever having the kind of game TRob had, but that's okay. Lucas is a 5, not a 4. Lucas has another advantage, too. The moment Self signed Joel Embiid, that meant Self had redundancy at the 5--Landen and Joel. And that redundancy enables Self to scheme a team that assumes, and even plays through a true 5; this is good for both Landen and Joel. And it is means Randle has to be a monsterously good 4 to slip over to the 5 and beat both footers out as a starter. Therefore, Randle might even pose more problems for Perry than for Lucas and Embiid.

It all depends on how good each of these guys are come next October. :-)


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

Part 3

What happens in high school and what changes in college that makes them not be plug and play?

I suspect that good, big and skillful 6-8 high school players get used to two advantages in high school--they are stronger than most guys they play against and they are more skilled, too. Perry Ellis has a wide range of skills to draw on to win with in addition to being 6-8 and 225 since the age of 4. :-)

With these two advantages, unless their temperaments are predisposed to explosiveness, and cunning, they can get by, even excel, without every having to explode beyond their position on a regular basis, and without ever having to resort to cunning, rather than skill, to get and hold an edge on another player. Put another way, they are used to dominating other players simply by playing their games, rather than having to figure out how to dominate another player with will, ferocity and cunning.

So: I think what happens to these guys in college is that the advantage of being decisively bigger and stronger evaporates, and the advantage of being more diversely skilled evaporates, too. Thus, they are left as babes in the woods without the will, cunning and ferocity needed to find ways to dominate opponents. For some, learning will, cunning and ferocity are as insurmountable as learning to shoot the trey, or make 75% of their FTs.

Randle could have everything and step in. But if he lacks the will, ferocity and cunning to learn how to dominate another guy like himself, teammate, or opponent, then he is going to run into problems starting, or playing 25mpg.

This is where I think a lot of board rats get tripped up about arguing for some players to be given the PT immediately to get them ready. There are some gifted players with enough will, ferocity and cunning to benefit from being thrown to the dogs. But there are apparently also a goodly number of them that it does not help. IMHO, Self knows the difference. Watching EJ this season struggle with adversity makes me think he has correctly understood EJ all along, just as he understood that Tyshawn could take being thrown to the dogs as a freshman in a limited role. Rush could, too. Chalmers, too. Others not.

Frankly, who can benefit has less to do with levels of ability than with simply who has the will, ferocity and cunning to endure the fire.

Some break and some don't. But anyone thrown in too soon breaks. And a broken mind in my experience rarely mends, the way a broken bone does. It does not get stronger and more confident. Minds, unlike, bones, never forget the fracture.


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

Part 2

But Randle could easily have his own version of Kevin to deal with next season in Jamari Traylor.

By this I mean that Randle might play out very much like Perry Ellis has. He might start some early, play big minutes some too, but gradually lose out to an older, more savvy, more explosive player, at least for awhile.

It all depends on whether Jamari can ever acquire the skills to go with his athleticism and explosiveness.

Kevin came with some athleticism, a lot of explosiveness, and frankly a good skill set that Self has not asked him to utilize until now, when he is coming off a broken hand. Self is like that. :-)

Justin exemplifies what happens when you have athleticism, a little explosiveness, but cannot broaden your skill set. You have to sit for guys with athleticism and explosiveness and only a bit more skill (e.g., Jamari).

Jamari this year exemplifies what happens when you have athleticism and explosiveness, but a narrow skill set. You sit for a veteran like Kevin, and a talented newbie like Perry.

What keeps Jamari off the floor a lot this season is he is not a natural rebounder, he hasn't got a reliable jump shot, and he is a weak FT shooter.

Compare Jamari to Thomas Robinson early. Thomas was born a rebounder. Probably got the doctor on his hip the minute he came out of his mother's womb. But even that couldn't keep him on the floor his freshman season, because he fouled, had no J, and could not make foul shot. Even Thomas' sophomore season he could only play situationally, because though he began to get a J, he fouled and could not make a free throw. As a junior, he added FT shooting, foul avoidance, and some good offensive moves and he was gold.

Few athletics can add what Thomas added to his game, or the world would be full of Lottery picks.

But it is reasonable to think that Jamari could add one of the three by next season. He could improve his rebounding, and maybe even learn to shoot FTs. I am a big believer that most can improve their FT shooting one increment of 10 percent. Doing so would get Jamari close to where he could be in the game late.

So if we look at the criteria above--athleticism, explosiveness, and skills we can understand why journeyman veterans can often keep 5-stars off the floor 20-25 mpg.

But the most interesting question to me is why do so many of these gifted 5 star bigs fall short of having these basics hard wired?

I mean Perry Ellis seemed like coming in that he would have them hard wired; that he would be plug and play.


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

"Athleticism, Explosiveness, and Skills"

Part 1


Landing Randle would be a huge plus.

He seems to have athleticism, weight and skills, but explosiveness is one of those things that is hard for me to gauge in a high school player from a few feeds. Randle's only sure negative is that when he came up against a guy with more athleticism (and I suspect more explosiveness), he got beaten badly, not just a little. This suggests a player lacking some in mental toughness; i.e., he is a confident stud, when he holds all the aces, but has not ever had to learn to be resourceful against equals and betters. Note: I must apologize for not recalling the player's name right now that beat up on Randle. I think he might have signed with UK, though.

The above does not make Randle a bad sign, at all. It just means that, like Perry, talent and all, he is probably going to need a year of learning how to beat guys his own size--of how to really be tougher than the next guy.

There are guys, regardless of size, that just are born more cunning and more ferocious.

Perry was very heady and well coached and intensely developed skill wise as a high schooler. He was always able to rely on a combination of greater size and strength and better skills to win 4 state championships, or something like that. He always had two advantages that never got trumped, so he never had to rely on animal fury and cunning to get the job done. He is in the process of learning that as a freshman. People look and scratch their heads and think Perry outweighs Kevin, and Perry is a better natural scorer than Kevin, and Perry looks a bit meaner than Kevin with Perry's facial hair, and Perry has won all those state championships, and so they say Perry has to be better than Kevin. But Perry was so good in high school that he never had to learn to explode out of himself to survive. And he never had to learn a lot of tricks to survive. Once Perry learns to explode and learns the tricks Kevin knows, then he will be better than Kevin. But he these are not easy things to learn. And so Kevin may be graduated before Perry gets better than Kevin.

Same deal with Randle. And it would have been the same deal with Peters, had he not gotten injured. The bigger and stronger you are in high school, the less you have to explode outside yourself to survive and prevail.

Randle's advantage over Perry's will be an additional 20 pounds, which will be a very big advantage that will mask lack of explosiveness and lack of tricks. Randle might well be able to hold onto a starting spot through the early season due to his weight alone.


HawkKlaw 1 year, 4 months ago

I'm obviously biased, but the '08 KU National Champs were quite possibly the best KU team ever. How they would not make a list of Top 25 NCAA tournament teams is beyond me. They literally had it all: depth, defensive stoppers, offensive juggernauts (a different lead scorer almost every night), wins over highly ranked teams, etc. That was the only NCAA team in history (at the time) to win 37 games plus a NC (The Memphis team we beat that year was the only team to win 38 games, but they lost the NC. The 2011-12 UK team went 38-2 and won the NC since then though.). Not to mention, that '08 KU team is the only #1 seed to win a Final Four that included all #1 seeds. It would be awesome to see them get some love from the NCAA. Whatever, life goes on.

And it's great news to hear about EJ. The sooner he gets to 100% the better. Before the CU game, his play was pretty dismal on both ends of the court. He hasn't been very vocal about being hampered and when KU plays badly, he shoulders the load. That really says a lot about Elijah's character.


William Blake 1 year, 4 months ago

So glad EJ is on the mend. He is the key to making it happen this year.

Rock Chalk, EJ!


yates33333 1 year, 4 months ago

" Aaron and Andrew Harrison, 6-5 twins from Fort Worth, Texas."

Funny thing. My relatives in Houston think Richmond, Texas, Travis H.S., is a suburb of Houston. Better be careful they live in Richmond not Richland.


joeloveshawks 1 year, 4 months ago

Weirdly worded article but I am thrilled to hear EJ is feeling healthy again. I truly thought he would be our best player this year and who knows...maybe that is still a possibility.

The March Madness All Time lists are fun. I think KU should have a chance at best game with the 2008 victory. I assume Villanova and NC State and other teams that pulled huge upsets will get some votes as well.

I am not sure if we have much of a chance with Wiggins. Just a gut reaction. Would be amazing to get him or Randle but even it those don't pan out we have a hell of a class coming in and a lot of guys returning that will be hungry next year.


Michael Pannacciulli 1 year, 4 months ago

That opening quote makes no sense to me from EJ...


billhawk 1 year, 4 months ago

Good news we still have a shot with Wiggins. I had read somewhere that he was down to FSU and UK - must have read that wrong, but those are probably his favorites at this point.
I think we have a good shot at landing Randle. Either would be the icing on the cake of a great class!


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

KU DUE-TO'S VS. Belmont

• Perry Ellis due for a breakout.

• AW3 due for extended minutes.

• Jamari due to un-funk.

• Ben due to reel it in a bit to recover his efficiency.

• EJ due to jump'n'jam.

• Trav due to conserve and let the young guys play.

• Jeff due to go for de minimum triple double: 10/10/10, the sit.

• Naadir due to make his treys.

• Rio due to handle the ball under control.

• Justin due to get some minutes to get him ready for playing more minutes when bang ball starts.

• Self due to let them labor for one.

• Dooley due to find a new high percentage play.

• Townsend due to turn up another line on a recruit.


kusayzone 1 year, 4 months ago

Almost Jabatian, Motivation must come from within Grasshopper Elijah, not from the coach, the crowd, the family or the press, Seek what lies within the passion of your game, and unite with powers of your brother teammates to become one circle-the beginning with no end, and to this truth will be revealed the power and the spirit for the passion. It will consume you, but it will be yors forever in the phog of history. Go Grasshopper and see the rim once again.


jaybate 1 year, 4 months ago

• EJ is having the most surreal season of any KU pg, maybe any KU player ever. Team is 7-1. Highly ranked. Everyone but him gets praise. Most of the time he seems invisible. His coach talks of replacing him with a power forward. His backup can't guard, so EJ has to play injured. And his mom and sis show up without telling him. Next thing you know his girl will tell she is not really who she said she was and some professor will confess to being an alien a Jovian moon. A TV show based his life will air called "Breaking Weird." Hang in Prophet! You still da man of this team. You keep doing your best and its going to break your way. You're still that rarest of things: the tall point guard. My dad would have loved you and defended you to the hilt. Big guys did it differently at the point. No one ever understood them. Even Oscar Robertson was misunderstood. Press on. Oscar lives on in you. Oscar would tell you, "Be yourself and don't worry what all the little people used to little guards expect." The W&L tells all.

• The '08 team was the greatest defensive team of all time.

• Chlamers The Shot towers over others.

• Manning's '88 team the greatest Cinderella story.

• Manning's '88 performance the greatest "put a team on your back and carry it" of all time.

• '12 team = greatest team ever beaten by a stacked deck that should have been disqualified for recruiting improprieties.


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