Sunday, January 22, 2012


Elijah Johnson deserves lot of ‘D’ credit

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson tosses a pass from the floor underneath Texas guard Myck Kabongo after a steal during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 at the Frank Erwin Center.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson tosses a pass from the floor underneath Texas guard Myck Kabongo after a steal during the first half on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2012 at the Frank Erwin Center.


Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

KU coach Bill Self

KU coach Bill Self talks to reporters following the Jayhawks' 69-66 victory over Texas on Jan. 21, 2012.

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Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson

Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson talk to reporters following the Jayhawks' 69-66 victory over Texas on Jan. 21, 2012.

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KU vs. Texas

Box score

— Tyshawn Taylor again sped his Kansas University basketball team to victory, 69-66 against Texas in the Erwin Center on Saturday, and the toughest defensive assignment, as usual, went to Travis Releford.

But Taylor isn’t the only guard playing well for the Jayhawks, and Releford isn’t the only perimeter player taking pride in his defense.

Under the radar, a year before the spotlight shines on him, junior guard Elijah Johnson has become a player the coach doesn’t want to take off the floor because he’s making too many winning plays.

Kansas won the game by playing so well at the end, but it might not have come to that if the defense played on Texas junior guard J’Covan Brown had not been so terrific at the beginning.

Releford had Brown the first three-and-a-half minutes, and every time Brown touched it, Kansas trapped him. Releford was tagged with a foul at the 16:37 mark, and Johnson took over the assignment. More of the same. Brown didn’t get a shot attempt off until the 13:15 mark of the half. Brown didn’t make a shot until he first missed five of them. His first bucket came with 6:27 left.

Releford returned to guarding Brown, but during the first half, Johnson was on him more minutes than anybody. All but four of Brown’s 24 points came in the second half.

“I ended up switching onto him one play, and I felt some discomfort (on Brown’s part),” Johnson said. “I took advantage of it. I got my hand on a couple of basketballs from him and (Myck) Kabongo. When it came to a timeout, coach called out the list and called who we were guarding, and I told him to switch mine, keep me on him.”

Johnson’s defense played a big hand in Kansas taking a 12-point lead at the half. He finished with nine points, four rebounds, three assists, three turnovers and three assists in 35 minutes. He also had one of the Jayhawks’ biggest buckets, pulling up and draining a guarded 15-footer to cut the deficit to 64-62 with 2:54 left.

Keeping opposing guards from getting past him was a problem in limited playing time as a freshman. Not anymore.

“I just have this mentality I’ve developed while I’ve been in school,” Johnson said. “I don’t really want anybody scoring on me. Forget the team, forget the coaches, forget the referees, forget everybody in the stands. Just personally, I don’t like being scored on, and that’s how I approach the person I’m guarding in the game.”

Boastful basketball players sound better when it’s their ability to defend they’re discussing, especially when it’s a player playing as if he doesn’t care who gets the credit. Johnson has plenty of company in that regard.

“When I get scored on, it stands out,” he said. “I don’t know if you can tell, but when I get scored on, it stands out because it doesn’t happen very often.”

Johnson leads the team in three-point field goal attempts (105), but hasn’t been the most accurate (.305) long-range shooter. Taylor does such a great job of breaking down the defense that open shots come to Johnson, and he’s supposed to take them. It’s a different sort of role for him.

“With me it’s never been about scoring,” Johnson said. “My whole life I’ve always enjoyed having other people score more, especially if I could put something together. I more so like to put it together and watch it develop than have somebody else put it together and me pull it through, although I can do that too. It’s just more fun, and I get more excitement out of having other people score. I guess you could call it a true point guard.”

Whatever you call it, the Kansas backcourt blends well enough that the team is alone in first place in the Big 12 with a 6-0 record and has won nine games in a row.


rhollinshed 6 years, 5 months ago

Great win Jayhawks!!! Way to hold it together. Prayers for T-Rob!!

KULA 6 years, 5 months ago

"playing well at the end" This team is starting to remind me of the 07 & 08 squads that played so well at the end of games, going toe to toe and nose to nose and playing great defense and simply out-toughing the other team.

KansasComet 6 years, 5 months ago

Elijah Johnson is a team player. He is doing what is necessary to help the team win. Now that is refreshing to hear in this day and age. A lot of young players with his talent are "me, me, me". I am glad to hear Elijah talking about helping the team. That is the thing about KU. We do not have a ton of "One and Done" players. Student Athletes develop at KU. Coach Self must be doing something right. Not many 5 star recruits stay four years, I sure hope this young man does. He could get National recognition like Thomas Robinson has this year. Just think if Robinson left for the NBA last year? Sure he would have been drafted and got paid, but look at what he is worth now. He has learned patience and developed into a leader. Great job by Coach Self and staff working with these young men.

jaybate 6 years, 5 months ago

"Hawaii 6-0" • Some of the best team defense I have ever seen played, Chin. • Getting a win on the road against a decent team on a weak shooting night excites me, Kono. It makes me think this team has learned how to win when the shots aren't falling. • Steve, I've never seen a team with this combination of dazzle and toughness. •Maui, seems a long time ago, Chin, but we learned alot about ourselves there, and about Wo Fats of this world. •Rick Barnes and Texas? Book'em, Danno. Book'em. Impersonating a rivalry!

jaybate 6 years, 5 months ago

The headline on this story is a tiny masterpiece.

jaybate 6 years, 5 months ago

You're probably right, since your tend to get these kinds of forecast right. But every time I see Travis dribble in transition, and every time I see him begin to make good choices about pulling up, when it ain't there, and every time I imagine him taking 2 guards to iron, and posting up 2 guards, and locking them down and throwing away the flipping key, I literally salivate at the prospect of EJ at the 1, Travis at the 2, and Perry at the 3, with Ben Mac swinging between 2 and 3, and KY swinging 3/4 and keeping us big at the 3, when Perry rests, or has growing pains.

I know the smart, conventional thing to do is keep Trav at the 3, where he is a proven commodity, but Trav at the 2 and Perry at the 3, and Ben Mac and KY backing both, just spells every game MUA to me, with a fierce some offensive spike when the two back ups enter.

I know Ben Mac is supposed to have an NBA 3 and be a seriously good player, but permit an old man to dream. :-)

chriz 6 years, 5 months ago

Yeah, I agree. I can see bmac having the same type of impact Sherron had on the '07-'08 team. Obviously not at the same position, but in terms of minutes and scoring.

dylans 6 years, 5 months ago

What does MUA stand for? You use it a lot.

jaybate 6 years, 5 months ago

Match-up advantage.

Thanks for asking.

Vernon Riggs 6 years, 5 months ago

We will be DEEP next year and will go back to the 8-9 man rotation that HCBS likes. It could be like a like watching hockey with a first line and a second line. Keep the pedal down and run full-court all game.

Kye Clark 6 years, 5 months ago

I agree with almost everything, other than your prognosis for Ellis. Typically these hybrid 3/4s don't see much time at the three early on in their careers (Julian, McMorris). Especially as loaded at the 3 as we'll be. I've also heard that on the AAU circuit, against athletic 3s, he struggles a bit with his ball handling and perimeter offense.

My prediction is that he'll start at the 4 next year. That is where we are going to be the most unproven. Withey and...? How good is Traylor really? Peters? Lucas? Do Young and Wesley fade onto the bench? I think Ellis is the best bet to get consistency from the position.

Vernon Riggs 6 years, 5 months ago

Traylor is playing each day against TRob, he better than he was and he will be better each day. He has a head start on Peters, Ellis and Lucas. We are little thin at #1 and #2.

Kye Clark 6 years, 5 months ago

Yeah I understand about Traylor playing with the team (since semester break), so I concede that he will have an edge regarding the learning curve at the start. However, Traylor was a 3 star recruit ranked #141 by rivals coming out of prep school. Perry is currently a 5 star recruit ranked #24, so I believe the talent discrepancy is great enough to give Ellis the edge.

To give you an example, Justin Wesley practiced all last year (not just half the year as will be the case with Traylor) against TRob AND the Morris Twins, and he hasn't had much of an impact. Both are similarly described. Long, athletic. So should we expect that much more from Traylor next year?

Ken Sedgwick 6 years, 5 months ago

These guys have come a long, long way in a short time.

jaybate 6 years, 5 months ago

And if they had not, they would not be in a position to try to go another long way to get to where they want to go.

Motto: Come along way with a long way to go, so keep winning at home and scrapping for whatever Ws they can on the road.

It will serve them well.

REHawk 6 years, 5 months ago

One returning starter, a handful of last season's bench players, and a topflight perenial coaching staff. Top 10 ranking once again, with approaching consideration for possible Final 4 validity. Why would any but the one and done recruit choose to play anywhere other than Kansas?

jaybate 6 years, 5 months ago

REHawk, You've distilled the essence. And I think Self's early signings of near cream of the crop guys like Andrew White and reputed projects like Landon Lucas means Self is playing the game you describe. Self is saying that he is trying to lead the nation in the best 4 and borderline 5 start recruits and the best projects no matter what. He aims to build such a strong foundation and so much continuity that one OAD every year or two will opt to be a capstone to a potential ring team, rather than join a team full of OADs that are never going to win a ring.

Its good strategy, unless Self were to decide to compete at check book recruiting to land the most OAD talent, which I believe (and hope) he will not do.

Ben Kane 6 years, 5 months ago

Just because he isn't getting them doesn't mean he isn't trying. I believe Self will always try and get the best players he can. With Danny on the bench though, he has been able to do more with less than any other team in the country which means that we are great shape with or without the one and dones.

rockchalk_dpu 6 years, 5 months ago

I agree that Self is trying to recruit OAD's, but he also sees what he wants/needs to build a consistent team and knows that the OAD's don't factor into that process. The one's he has brought in have been players who he feels will buy into the team first concept and are willing to play solid defense and play within the offense to help the team. I've been glad he hasn't chased these divas as much as other teams cough Calimari cough and the product on the court shows that commitment to building a team. At times, posters on this site and others have called out Self and said he's lost his touch, but I think that's getting it twisted. Self knows what the team needs and knows how to evaluate how good a player could be with a few years of work with the staff and Hudy. Keep it up HCBS and lets hang another NCAA banner.


Ben Kane 6 years, 5 months ago

yeah, i would never accuse Self of losing his touch. when it comes to recruiting, you win some and you lose some, but his ability to consistently put a team on the court that us fans can always expect to win just shows how great a coach he is.

Ben Kane 6 years, 5 months ago

"When it came to a timeout, coach called out the list and called who we were guarding, and I told him to switch mine, keep me on him.”

love this quote and EJ's attitude.

John Randall 6 years, 5 months ago

The assignments you suggest would do more to disrupt the perimeter ball movement and inside-out scheme than it would be worth. As an alternative to pick-and-roll plays we now run off the perimeter, I don't like to clutter up that area of the floor.

I agree with you on looking for three point shots – just makes them easier to defend.

JurisJayhawk 6 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for playing great defense EJ! Keep it up going forward! RCJH!

HawkKlaw 6 years, 5 months ago

This team is turning into a defensive juggernaut. My feelings all season have been that, if KU can play great D, we can compete with anyone. That's starting to show every time KU takes the court. If we played Kentucky today I would expect a completely different game than what we saw November 15. KU has steadily (and vastly) improved since then. We still need to work on committing less turnovers, but I honestly expect KU to be one of those teams that nobody wants to face come usual. Bill Self for COY, anyone?

dylans 6 years, 5 months ago

Where are the Keegan haters? Clicks are low for this article. Maybe Keegan needs to crank up the controversy for the next article to get clicks up.

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