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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Keegan

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.

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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.

Comments

dylans 2 years, 3 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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HawkKlaw 2 years, 3 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 March...as usual. Bill Self for COY, anyone?

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JurisJayhawk 2 years, 3 months ago

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

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William Blake 2 years, 3 months ago

"Under the radar, a year before the spotlight shines on him, junior guard Elijah Johnson..."

Sorry... but I don't like this mindset. And I believe EJ has this mindset, too. EJ should be shining now! This team has developed into something that fits his game well and he needs to take advantage of it now!

EJ is the final piece to a puzzle that could spell National Championship.

I'm glad in '08 that Sherron didn't feel like he was flying under the radar, especially down the stretch of the championship game when he created a big part of the magic that brought us back from the dead.

These imbalanced thoughts need to stop. EJ has the potential to go out on any night and shine in his own light... and on offense, too!

His pull-up 15-footer at the end which helped us come back is a shot he can be in position for almost every time we have the ball. And while he is floating up there on the mid-range jumper he can usually find an easy assist to TRob or Jeff in the paint or Conner in the corner.

We really need either TRele or EJ to step up for a big game every game. One of those guys needs to use the drive (or slash cut) to get in mid-range... otherwise, we are setting ourselves up for losing when we can't hit the 3 and TT doesn't have a great game.

I hope through all of this that CS picks up some new offensive strategy; to use the 2 and 3 spot players more in the mid-range. We have so much great ball motion with our offense, going around the perimeter and feeding the post in and out with the high/low. We have created a sweet mid-range pocket to attack, and EJ and TRele are perfect players to attack it!

EJ's athleticism is remarkable! He has yet to utilize his vertical abilities on this team except for one alley-oop play. Imagine what happens when he sets up and head fakes the trey, gets the defender in the air, then penetrates to around the FT line where he goes vertical and either takes the shot or feeds TRob or Withey for the highlight slam!

TRele brings a different skill set. He needs to be labeled as a scorer and start shooting more because he has a great touch on the ball, especially in the mid-range. Plus, he is a great finisher at the rim!

Don't get me wrong... I love the defense both TRele and EJ bring to the game... but why aren't both of these guys given credit for what they can bring to the offensive side of the ball?

I'd rather live more by the mid-range game than by the trey... any day of the week! That trey will come and go. If you are counting on the trey to bring home the gold you might as well believe in lottery tickets for your retirement.

Funny, but when you don't count on the trey it will usually be there when you need it most.

The assignment for TRele and EJ: head or ball fake from trey, penetrate with the ball to mid-range and score or assist.

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Ben Kane 2 years, 3 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.

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REHawk 2 years, 3 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?

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Ken Sedgwick 2 years, 3 months ago

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

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Ralster Jayhawk 2 years, 3 months ago

EJ will be awesome running the point next year, with Naadir first off bench backup PG.

BenMac will be the 6'5" shooting guard--but has handles also. Relef+White at wing (with some split 3/4 by Ellis). Traylor at 4 (with some Ellis-time). Withey at 5, with Peters doing time at the 4/5, along with Wesley & Young. Can you say depth? Can you say toughness? (Traylor, White, Peters, Releford, EJ, ??Ellis...) Can you say fast transition? (Releford, BMac, EJ, Tharpe, ??Traylor, ??White, ??Ellis)

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jaybate 2 years, 3 months ago

The headline on this story is a tiny masterpiece.

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jaybate 2 years, 3 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!

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KansasComet 2 years, 3 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.

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KULA 2 years, 3 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.

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rhollinshed 2 years, 3 months ago

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

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