Sunday, March 18, 2012

Elijah Johnson over ’due: Guard knows all about Boilermakers

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson responds to questions from media members in the team locker room before practice, Saturday, March 17, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson responds to questions from media members in the team locker room before practice, Saturday, March 17, 2012 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha.


— Elijah Johnson, who was born and raised in Gary, Ind., moved to Las Vegas when he was in the eighth grade.

As part Hoosier/part Sin Citian, he knows all about Purdue — the Big Ten school that will take on Kansas University in an NCAA Tournament game at 7:40 p.m. today in CenturyLink Center.

“I am from Indiana. I know the history. I know what kind of program it is and everything,” said Johnson, a 6-foot-4 junior guard who had 15 points, four rebounds, two turnovers and three assists in Friday’s 65-50 opening-round victory over Detroit.

“I know they’ve got motion offense. I know they’ve got a tough player in Hummel (Robbie, 6-8 senior, 16.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg) who came back from two (ACL) injuries. I respect him so much for that.

“I know they’ve got a point guard who loves to get to the paint (5-9 senior Lewis Jackson, 143 assists, 58 turnovers). They’ve got a shooter who shoots lights out who has taken over 200 threes (6-3 senior Ryne Smith, 88 of 204 from beyond arc). I know a lot about ’em.

I’m not done learning. I’ll do my homework tonight,” Johnson added.

Johnson, who was not recruited by Purdue — “I had already gone to the West Coast. They didn’t even know I was from there when I was getting recruited,” he said — learned how to play the game with the help of a Boilermaker.

That person would be Glenn Robinson, who played on the 1994 Purdue team that knocked KU out of the 1994 NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16.

“He came from Roosevelt High School, the same high school I was going to go to,” Johnson said. “I went to his camps in the summer as a little kid.”

Johnson’s dad, Marcus, and Indiana youth coaches also drilled him on fundamentals.

“My game ... I think when people hear I am from Vegas, they are kind of confused about that. Then I tell them I’m really from Indiana, it kind of makes sense,” Johnson said. “I’ve got a feel for the game. I enjoy the game more than the average person. You can tell by the way I see things, by the way I don’t care about scoring (9.8 ppg, 126 assists, 61 turnovers), by the way I enjoy how basketball is supposed to be played. Because in Indiana they don’t just play basketball, they teach you how to play basketball. It’s not just about going one-on-one — can you score 40? — and not play defense. It’s about the whole court. I learned that in Indiana.”

Johnson seems to have taken on more lead-guard responsibilities lately, especially in the second half of Friday’s game when Tyshawn Taylor was out with leg cramps.

Taylor grinned when asked how it’s determined who brings the ball up court when both are in the game together.

“If I get tired, I tell Elijah to bring it up,” Taylor said. “One time Elijah was on the bench with two fouls. I said, ‘I need you on the court. When you are not in the game I have to bring it up every time. I’m tired. You HAVE to be out there.’

“I love playing with him; it reminds me when I played with Sherron (Collins): Get it and go. I know how to run the 1 and the 2; he knows how to run the 1 and the 2 ... perfect.”

Johnson is the obvious candidate to take over as lead guard next season — his senior year. Current freshman Naadir Tharpe will be the only other point-guard candidate on the current roster.

“I’ve learned a lot from Tyshawn, being hungry, realizing we’re lucky to be at Kansas,” Johnson said. “I was born to do this. This is my time. I’d be a fool if I said I wasn’t ready. Who would say that?

“I’m a natural leader. A lot of people might not see it. My teammates know. I won’t tell you to do something I won’t do. It’s good enough right there.”

He’s not looking far ahead. A victory today would mean a spot in Friday’s Sweet 16 game against either North Carolina State or Georgetown in St. Louis. A loss and the season is over.

“I’m ready to win this next game. I can’t think that far ahead or I won’t survive tomorrow,” he said.

And to beat Purdue, a team that enters with a 22-12 record compared to KU’s 28-6 mark?

“Play hard,” he said. “We know they have a good team. We see them play on TV. It’s a name we are familiar with. We feel we know them because their record is on TV all the time, the conference they play in, what kind of offense they run, the style of play in that conference (Big Ten). We’re adjusting to it now. We have to be in tune because they have no set plays. They do anything they want to. We have to be ready for anything.”


kuae99 2 years ago

Prescient piece, this. Nice job, Gary.


William Blake 2 years, 1 month ago

I've always respected Gene Keady and his many years at Purdue. He is a Kansas native and left his mark all over the State of Kansas (as well as at Purdue).

I believe he is still active in basketball and is an assistant at St. John's.

You can bet he will be watching our game.


KansasComet 2 years, 1 month ago

To the poster Jaybate. I only get on this website to post my opinions, frustrations and chat a little hoops with fellow Jayhawk fans. I believe in being polite to everyone on this site. I usually respond to all replies , and if I disagree with opinions, then I try to express that the best I can. You, on the other hand, try to force your opinion down the throats of everyone on this site. Some like you on this site, others clearly don't. As for me, I really don't have an opinion, except for you let you know, "It does not take an hour and a half, to watch 60 minutes", think about it, and keep it moving.


tical523 2 years, 1 month ago

I love EJ, definately a respectable dude. I hope he has a great run this tourney that sprignboards him into a special senior year. I want to see him aggressive and score next year because it will not only help the team but help his NBA stock and he deserves a bright future. To be honest though, with or without basketball, he will have a bright future because of that great attitude.


Jackmoon 2 years, 1 month ago

Kansas is gonna cover the 8 point spread tonight over Purdue! guaranteed by ricky! if u wanna know why come check out my blog and talk about the article my sick parlay or how handsome i am,!


Tony Bandle 2 years, 1 month ago

1] I truly hope Hummel is assigned to TRob. With those knees , there is no way he will match up with him, he will risk foul trouble and fatigue from his defensive efforts will effect his shooting.

2] Our guards need to push the ball up against a markably less athletic backline.

3] Contine the intense pressure at the three point line. It worked against Detroit and it is our best option against this much better shooting team.

4] Never forget Black Friday's Massacre. It's the NCAA...every team is dangerous at this stage.

5] You bench guys...hit 'em with your best shot!!!

6] Jayhawks, relax...I don't have tickets in St.Louis this year so there is no need to break my heart like the last several times!!!


Dillweed 2 years, 1 month ago

One of Withey's teammates needs to punch him in the chest before the game and get him mad. When he plays a little pissed off he focuses more. Its been cool watching different Jayhawks have their stretches besides TRob and Tyshawn. Releford had 3 great games in a row - Player of the Week. Withey, Johnson as well. As much as I like the kid for what he has accomplished, Teahan has to hit some shots and quit turning the ball over. He hustles and has a great attitude but his average skills make him a liability when he can't hit the three. If the team listens to Self and cranks up the defense-first mentality, they will win.


KansasComet 2 years, 1 month ago

When I look at Elijah Johnson, I realize what an incredible challenge Coach Self has every season, as far as recruiting. I believe Coach Self is interested in recruiting the "Student Athlete". Of course, he wants to recruit the most talented players as well. Unfortunately, some of the most talented players have zero interest in staying in school and earning a degree.

I guess every now and then, Coach Self comes across a talented Student Athlete that wants to stay, such as EJ and Tyshawn. Good luck to Coach Self, that has to be a difficult challenge finding the right mix of talent to build upon.


jaybate 2 years, 1 month ago

"How to Beat KU?"

Painter is a smart coach without match up advatages in this game. How might a smart coach without key match up advantages try to win?

MU proved one way. Make KU play a 4 guard game and get it into a foul shooting contest. It only worked 1of 2 times, almost twice.

Purdue lacks 4 guards.

What else?

Give Thomas Robinson looks, or rebounds, but not both.

The way to beat any team with a great double double guy is to both foul the heck out of him and take away his rebounding by forcing him to score all the time by jump shots of the blocks. Push him out when possible but always encourage the pass into him.

Over guard the other four to force the ball to Thomas. Never front him. Always keep Hummel between him and the basket. Hummel gives him every j, and only denies him the drive. Any spin and dunk is fouled hard. Turn Self's take what is given training on itself. Control the rebounding. Deny KU its balanced scoring. Encourage KU to stand around and let Thomas do the work. Any KU player that penetrates is fouled hard. Give KU the trey all game. Deny penetration.

Doing this would beat KU any time Thomas had an average shooting game of .45. No one has done this yet.

Some one will.

There is always a counter, but it will be tough for KU to recognize the first time.

Here is hoping Painter doesn't do this, but I suspect he will.

This makes sure Thomas does not rebound.


KansasComet 2 years, 1 month ago

Thank you for coming to KU Elijah Johnson. This is one of the few times where a Five Star Recruit wanted to come to college, get an education, and work on improving every aspect of his game. Thanks again for not being selfish. You are one of my all-time favorites. I believe you will be on the "All-America" team next year. You will be rewarded, not just through the game of basketball, but also in the game of life.


smelliott 2 years, 1 month ago

I agree about the charge calls this year. I wonder if the officials are focusing too much on whether or not the defender's feet are outside of the restricted area rather than whether they are actually set before the offensive player is in the air.


jhox 2 years, 1 month ago

I think UK...oh, wait, that's that other school in that other state...I think KU (Kansas University) needs to play great defense in every game, from here forward, or we go home. It's as simple as that. When this team plays well, they set the tone on the defensive end of the floor. We don't have a consistent 3 point specialist (Tyshawn has been fairly consistent with his 3's, but he's not a 3 point specialist) so we have to do a great job of defending the perimeter.

In the NCAA it is tough to trade 2's for 3's and win. Upsets usually happen when the lower seed gets hot from the 3 point line. It is imperative that we defend the 3 point shots. The other key is to keep Withey and Robinson out of foul trouble. We can't afford to have those guys sitting 15 or 20 minutes on the bench. If we do those things, we can beat anyone in our region. If we come out and defend like we did against Baylor in KC, we will lose.

On another topic, I'm not big on blaming refs for losses, but I have to say the level of officiating this season, and in this tournament, has reached an all time low. Iowa State got jobbed last night. I don't believe it would have made a difference in the outcome, but if they had gotten a fair shake, they may have hung in there a little longer and when it is tight, the advantage often goes to the underdog as the noose tightens around the favorite's neck. Iowa State was getting touch fouls, while Kentucky was hammering guys on every shot ISU took in the paint, and the refs swallowed their whistles.

My other pet peeve is the charge / block call. I've seen more guys sliding under offensive players, or throwing a hip at the last second and winning charging calls this season than I can ever remember. It's like too many of these officials want to be the show, rather than managing the chaos, which is really what they're there for. It is like they want to show off their artistic and animated charge calls that they've been working on the mirror, rather than getting the calls right

I'm also sick of seeing guys go over other guy's backs for rebounds, and knock the ball out of bounds, only to have the ball awarded to their team. The guy with inside rebounding position should get that call every time unless they clearly make contact with the ball a second time as it is going out of bounds or unless their momentum clearly carries the ball out. Instead of rewarding the guy for doing his job and blocking out, he's being punished for being closer to the out of bounds line. It's pretty clear to me that many of these officials didn't play the game beyond Junior High School. They have no concept of rewarding things done right.

I officiated for several years.. I know it is a tough job. It is not possible to call a perfect game given how physical the game has gotten, but coaches and players have a right to having an unbiased, consistently called game, and they should be rewarded for doing things the right way..


Cole Hogan 2 years, 1 month ago

im sorry, but it still bothers me that the LJW feels the need to say Kansas University. ITS NOT KANSAS UNIVERSITY!


rodriguez33 2 years, 1 month ago

I think both as a fan and as a player it's easy to look at a bracket and to look ahead and say, "we're going to play this team in the Sweet Sixteen, that team in the Final Four, &c." That's the type of attitude that gets you sent home early. For whatever reason, I don't get that vibe from this team. This season feels different. I don't think they are taking this opportunity for granted and hopefully this leads to an even more successful season than it already is.

It's pretty cliche to say, "take it one game at a time," but that's exactly what needs to happen and I think that's what we are doing. You all know exactly what to do. Just go out there and play your hearts out tonight and leave it all on the court. The rest will take care of itself.

Rock Chalk.


Scott MacWilliams 2 years, 1 month ago

" they have no set plays. They do anything they want to. We have to be ready for anything.” Really? This should be a good game then, if for no other reason than to see how EJ and the rest of the Hawks deal with this anything-goes offense...

Just keep them in front of you and keep your feet moving guys, survive and advance!!

Happy Saint Pats, too!


Ron Prichard 2 years, 1 month ago

For the guards-and the entire team, really-it's all about defensive intensity. Bring maximum effort on the defensive end and I think Purdue will have a lot of trouble scoring. They don't seem quite as athletic as us (the figurative "us," because I'm quite sure they're more athletic than I am) so I think if we can pressure them into difficult shots and turn them over some, we should be okay.

Rock Chalk!


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