Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Overland Park Kansas University senior Elijah Johnson accepted a pass from Kansas State’s Rodney McGruder, then bounced the basketball off the court into the hands of high-flying Jayhawk junior Justin Wesley, who finished a memorable Memorial Day dunk before 100 KC Gym Rats Collegiate All-Star campers in Blue Valley Northwest High’s gym.
“I don’t think coach (Bill Self) is going to let Elijah bounce it off the floor next year, but it was fun playing with him today, even though he can’t move around like he usually does,” Wesley said with a smile.
Johnson — he also fired a basketball off a wall to a trailing KSU forward Jordan Henriquez, who successfully jammed — was in great spirits while tutoring youths with the three other college players and BV Northwest coach Ed Fritz. The 6-4, 195-pounder from Las Vegas just made sure he jogged straight, making no cutting movements, as he continues his recovery from mid-April arthroscopic left knee surgery.
“I couldn’t do too much today. Rodney couldn’t do too much. I’m still trying to heal up from my surgery, and he is, too,” Johnson said of KSU senior guard McGruder, who had foot surgery last March.
“J.O. (Henriquez) and Justin got to play a little bit, but I was more of a spectator today. It’s always a lot of fun to work with the kids.”
Johnson said he’ll be cleared to play pick-up basketball, “on my birthday — July 11th. I feel great. I feel like I can play right now, but I’ve got to be smart about it and take care of my body. I’m going to sit out how long the doc tells me to sit out.”
Johnson actually was not 100 percent during the latter portion of the 2011-12 season.
“I was all right. I was a little uncomfortable, but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t play through,” Johnson said.
He would not acknowledge his swollen knee to media inquisitors during the NCAA Tournament. He never complained to his teammates.
“He was dealing with that during the season, too. He doesn’t complain. If I had to choose somebody on the team who didn’t complain about anything, it’d be Elijah,” Wesley said. “He really did play through it and play through it well. I think it would have been scary if he was 100 percent.”
Johnson is expected to take over from Tyshawn Taylor as floor general during the 2012-13 season.
He was asked if he considers it his team.
“That’s how I want to embrace it,” Johnson said. “I feel when they get down to the last couple seconds in the game, I want everybody to look at me and feel comfortable. I don’t want people to look at me and not know what kind of mood I’m going to be in tonight. I want my teammates to know that every night I am trying to take them all the way as far as I can, further than we went last year and try to be positive in any situation.”
College assistance: Blue Valley Northwest coach Ed Fritz annually has KU and K-State players help work his various KC Gym Rats camps.
“We had a great foursome today,” Fritz said. “They get along really well. Last night, Jordan Henriquez told me he already talked to Elijah about the camp. It’s great they respect each other. For having such a great rivalry, it’s great they get along.
“It’s nice for the kids (campers) to see these kids (Jayhawks and Wildcats) up close and see they are regular people like they are. They get along with the kids, and that makes it nice.”
Q&A: Fritz held a Q and A with the four players.
“Allen Fieldhouse,” was the response of Henriquez, asked to identify the toughest building he’s played in. “The moment I walked in the gym ... those fans are true KU fans.”
“Sherron Collins,” McGruder said, asked to reveal the toughest player he’s played against.
Asked the same question, KU’s Wesley said, “Tyler Zeller.”
Honoree: Incoming KU forward Perry Ellis of Wichita Heights was named one of 40 Parade All-Americans on Sunday.
“It’s nice to have him gone, really nice,” BV Northwest’s Fritz said with a smile. His squad was state runner-up to Heights the past three seasons. “Perry is a great player and was a great champion. He seemed always to be ready to play in the state championship game. He’ll have a great career at KU.”
Northwest returns junior major-college prospect Clayton Custer and three other sophomore starters. With 6-foot point guard Custer, BV Northwest has been 46-4 the past two seasons.
Quin in running: The Charlotte Bobcats plan on interviewing former Missouri coach Quin Snyder for the NBA team’s head-coaching vacancy, ESPN reports. The Bobcats reportedly already have interviewed Jerry Sloan, Patrick Ewing, Nate McMillan, Dave Joerger, Mike Malone, Nate Tibbetts, Mike Dunlap and Stephen Silas. They also will interview Indiana Pacers assistant Brian Shaw, ESPN says.