Saturday, November 10, 2012

Elijah Johnson least of Jayhawks’ worries

KU's Elijah Johnson catches his breath after suffering a blow to the chest against Southeast Missouri State on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, at Allen Fieldhouse.

KU's Elijah Johnson catches his breath after suffering a blow to the chest against Southeast Missouri State on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, at Allen Fieldhouse.


Elijah Johnson had as many fouls (five) as points and assists combined (five) in Kansas University’s 74-55 season-opening victory over Southeast Missouri State on Friday night in Allen Fieldhouse.

“He was just out there ... didn’t make a shot, didn’t get in the flow,” KU coach Bill Self said, without a trace of alarm, after the Las Vegas senior’s debut as starting point guard at KU.

“Foul trouble kept him from getting in the flow,” Self added of Johnson, who was a starting combo guard last season, running the point on occasion to spell four-year starter Tyshawn Taylor.

The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Johnson hit one of five shots (0-for-4 from three) and two of two free throws while dishing one assist against no turnovers in 22 foul-plagued minutes. He also grabbed three boards.

Are the Jayhawks concerned about Johnson’s line?

“Not at all,” senior center Jeff Withey said. “When he was in the game, I think he did a good job controlling the tempo. He’s still getting used to that position, being the point guard. He just needs to not foul. It’s definitely correctable.”

Johnson did fulfill his leadership responsibilities admirably. He spoke to back-up point Naadir Tharpe after picking up his fourth foul with 12:10 left and KU up by just six points. With the game’s outcome still in question, he told Tharpe to embrace the opportunity to “run the team and control it.”

Tharpe responded and helped the Jayhawks re-build the lead to 13 points by the time Johnson returned to the court with 5:23 to play. Johnson ultimately fouled out with 4:04 left and KU up by 17.

“I feel we were much more ready today than we were the last exhibition game,” Tharpe said.

The 5-11 sophomore from Worcester, Mass., scored a career-high 10 points off 4-of-11 shooting (1-for-6 from three) with two assists against two turnovers in 28 minutes.

“I felt we were lackadaisical, all of us (in a 62-50 victory over Washburn). We came out with great energy,” Tharpe added of Friday’s opener. “We didn’t knock down shots, but that happens in basketball. We just move onto the next game.”

KU will meet Michigan State at 6 p.m. (Central time) Tuesday in the Georgia Dome (71,000 seating capacity for football, 26,000 for basketball). It is part of the second-annual Champions Classic doubleheader. Kentucky will meet Duke in the late game. A year ago, Kentucky tripped KU, 75-65, and Duke downed Michigan State, 74-69, in the Classic in New York.

Next year, KU will play Duke and MSU will meet Kentucky in Chicago.

The Spartans are 0-1 following Friday’s 66-62 loss to UConn.

MSU guard Keith Appling scored 17 points and sophomore guard/forward Branden Dawson 15, both off 7-of-17 shooting. Freshman guard Gary Harris had 11 off 4-for-13 shooting.

“We are going to play against real guys real soon, and those guys think that this piece of meat may be the last piece of meat on earth, and they play like it. So, if we don’t play like it, we will get our butts handed to us,” Self said.


yovoy 1 year, 5 months ago

19:02, 1st. Started there. He was fine, then he wasn't. Looks like he got a shot in the side, started leaning then. Seemed to favor his left side a bit. I remember a shot of him coming to the bench and he was grimacing. I wondered if he had a stomach bug, or if he might be having cramps from something else. Or if he'd gotten a shot in the solar plexus. He's not in shape and maybe a little injured. I'm shocked because at the end of last year his conditioning and "size" showed the work he'd put in. He looked like a horse during the tourney. He looked bigger and better than he had all year. His role grew, and his physical size seemed to grow with it. He might be changing up his weights/nutrition to get his body to a more prototypical PG physique. He will be expected to play more mpg, so maybe he's "retooling", losing some weight, and he's just a bit weak as he hasn't adapted to it yet. He looked the most winded of all the players going into the tunnel at half. Maybe it's a case of "heavy weighs the crown"?

No matter what the "problem" is, I'm of the same opinion as the headline of this story.

When he's on the bench, he's still the player he was, up cheering and being the best teammate he can be. He'll work into shape and/or get over any illness/injury. He's not our only hope, but he and Relly need to play like the Seniors they are. Releford had about the worst game I've seen him have in the years he's played. Except for a few plays in transtion, his physical and mental presence were unusually absent.


D20 1 year, 5 months ago

Two points I wanted to make:

  1. Regarding the injury conspiracies... I think that one has to keep in mind that these players are playing very long seasons of 30+ games at a very physical level. That is obviously going to take a toll on the players' bodies, no matter their age and condition. I can't imagine a scenerio where the coaching staff are knowingly overextending the players with regards to conditioning/forcing them to hazardously play on injuries. That would not help the coaches see players move on to the NBA, which seems to be an important résumé builder for recruitment purposes. Maybe I just don't want to see the negative, but it's just too hard to fathom. Why would the players subject themselves to that when there's money to be made at the next level? Why would a Brandon Rush suffer a major injury and then come back to play for someone who was just gonna do it again to him and ruin his career? It just doesn't make sense.

  2. When it comes to this years' team, I think that we have some real potential, but it's gonna take a while. Not only do we have a lot of freshmen, and not only did we lose Ty and TRob, but we also had significant staff turnover. I think that is as big of an adjustment as anything for Self to make. I think we still have a great staff and talented players, but it's gonna take a while. We might not get quite the number of victories that we're use to, but we will be good.


REHawk 1 year, 5 months ago

jb, I did not intend to open such a deep can of worms in my pointing out the exhausting agonies of Miles and Co. who played their hearts out in so many minutes, back in their final year. But for the benching of freshman Russ Rob, there was very little substitute help for those senior players who had been recruited by Roy Williams, then spent two years with Bill Self. In retrospect, it is amazing that those players and their new coach adjusted so well as they did to playing winning basketball. But I digress. My point is that players everywhere, esp. those aged 22 or 23, seem often to flag and sputter by season's end when they are faced with 30+ minutes of play, game in and out, under the stress of championship expectations. Freshmen and sophomores would seem to possess more bounce and energy, although they are hampered by lack of know-how by way of less experience. So far, but for brief spurts, our 3 senior starters already appear hampered by the stress of, perhaps, a variety of factors, some of which you have pointed out. And, yeah, the coach is a wily fox who might have been in the process of overworking players through these first 3 contests in order to present a face of listless exhaustion for opposing scouts and reviewers of game tape; covering all bases prior to opening day for the "real" competition. That said, I cannot but think there is a serious problem facing EJ. He has been a patient warrior, committed to walking through walls, as you say, for his coach and the program. Would be a miserable shame for him to tack through a senior season at half mast...or perhaps drop sail and sit out the entire 5 month storm. Maybe this is an overreaction at this stage; but a review of the SEMO game appears to bode ill for EJ in this month of November.


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

OR: EJ just acclimatizing to the PG role. He did it very well in spurts last year, but this year no Tyshawn, and also pressures of his final season. EJ needs to address the "durability" question with solid, game-after-game, JarretJack-style gritty play. He literally could be a blend of RussRob+Chalmers, in 1 pkg. Play tough, Elijah. You got this. A double-digit scoring avg+ high A:T ratio over 2.5:1, a 40% treygun, and an above the rim highlight at least every week ALL ADDS UP to "Lottery". I recall EJ waving a KU shirt at a kentucky audience when he was playing in an all star high school game. I am waving a KU#15 EJ jersey right about now, bebe...


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

Too much speculation on Elijah Johnson. The Prophet has not proclaimed anything specific, neither has Self. He just may be out of A-rated conditioning due to the 4weeks of sitting out, but then again, that was in July/August. This is November. I saw a lot of energy out of EJ the first half vs. SEMO. Medically speaking, I'm not convinced of anything.


dylans 1 year, 5 months ago

Wasn't EJ hurt over the summer and that's why he's a little behind in his conditioning? Did he have knee surgery or just a nagging sprain? Help me out if anyone recalls. Thanks


Martin Rosenblum 1 year, 5 months ago

What if.....

There was some sort of weird curse invoked in Columbia upon their departure from the B12?

HCBS has secretly been having Hudy tweak some of her sessions rendering players at less than their peak in order to make fans more humble and take some of the lofty expectations down a notch? (We have been getting spoiled)

DManning really was the glue all along and now with him gone, the exposure is troubling?

The sportsbooks in Vegas have covertly taken control of their native son and are manipulating his play for their benefit?


Wis Hawk 1 year, 5 months ago

Regarding EJ appeared not feeling well, I wonder if it had anything to do with flu shots. I know some people have reactions more strongly than others, and sometimes the flu shots actually introduce flu like symptoms to people. The flu symptom may last a couple of weeks. I don't know if the players had any flu shot, but I had it mid October per company policy and felt tired for a couple weeks.

Hope EJ gets well soon if he IS hurt or sick!


jaybate 1 year, 5 months ago

Part 5

So why do we even bother to play the greatest game ever invented, if we have to play the XTReme Game in order to stay competitive? Why don't we just say the game has been coopted and corrupted and walk away? Maybe start the Naismith College Basketball Association and start over.

"Savannah Nix: Time counts and keeps countin', and we knows now finding the trick of what's been and lost ain't no easy ride. But that's our trek, we gotta' travel it. And there ain't nobody knows where it's gonna' lead. Still in all, every night we does the tell, so that we 'member who we was and where we came from... but most of all we 'members the man that finded us, him that came the salvage. And we lights the city, not just for him, but for all of them that are still out there. 'Cause we knows there come a night, when they sees the distant light, and they'll be comin' home."

We remember the rules David Boothe bought and still can't find a place for--still can't put in a box and light up for all to find.

We remember James Naismith and his ideals.

We remember how the rules were once called and could be again.

And our brave young men return to the hardwood after all of us having tried to remember and shake our heads in sorrow, but then set the bonfires and rally round our team hearing the dreaded chant that echoes more and more through Barter Town.

"Two men enter. One man leaves."

Woe is the greatest game ever invented.

"Two men enter. One man leaves."

Woe to the players that must play it this way.

"Two men enter. One man leaves."

Woe to the fans that must cheer it this way.

"Two men enter. One man leaves."

Rock Chalk!


jaybate 1 year, 5 months ago

Part 4

Come out for warm ups in football helmets and shoulder pads, and start banging and slapping helmets. Put smoke bombs in the ear holes. Put a Ghetto blaster on the bench playing "Ride of the Valkyries" or Tina wailing "We Don't Need Another Hero..." Assign every player a flack jacket and a blackjack and have him cheer by waving it, so they know we are ready for a bench clearing brawl.

During the game, go down fighting this time, Bill. You, Bill. Confront Ratso.

And for every one of ours, take two of theirs. Start nothing. End everything. No pre-emption. Massive retaliation. Never do it with starters. Always use our reserves on his starters. When Ratso's players punch one of ours, we throw two of his down on their rotator cuffs the very next rebound. If they try to put one of our guys on the floor, Self brings reserves and puts two of theirs on their brain cases. Tell our bouncy new guys like Ben and Jamari not to take on air, until the blood has been let and the refs have to start calling fouls, then tell them to jump over, around and through their plodding mug ballers for a stream of dunks that result in separation.

Am I a hypocrite for feeling this way? Maybe, but until the rules change, this is how it is, as nearly as I can tell. So: remember the muggings Ratso has given.

Elijah Johnson appears to be laying it all on the line just to try to keep playing for this game in Thunderdome. The Prophet needs to be saved. Who will take the form of Mad Max?

Manning up starts with the coach.

It may be time to burr you're hair and enter Thunderdome in black leathers and boots for the sake of your team.

After you mentioned two packs and one piece of meat, slayr mentioned Thunderdome.

Two men enter. One man leaves.

That doesn't just go for the players, Bill.

Remember this quote from the movie, Bill.

"Mad Max: Thunderdome. How do I get in there?

Aunty Entity: That's easy. Pick a fight!"

There will be stretches of this game in which the refs will swallow their whistles. Ratso appears to know this. Bill appears to know this. The networks appear to know this. The NCAA appears to know this. The ADs appear to know this. The Chancellors appear to know this. The ShoeCos appear to know this. All god's children appear to know this.

"Dr. Dealgood: [giving instructions to Mad Max and Blaster prior to their battle] Thunderdome's simple. Get to the weapons, use them any way you can. I know you won't break the rules, because there aren't any."


jaybate 1 year, 5 months ago

Part 3

On the other hand, Self seems to be building for an "I told you so" moment to the team. Like if we get our clocks cleaned by 40 and a couple guys wind up with noses sticking out the back of their heads, Self gets to walk amongst the wounded saying, "See, I told you this was going to happen, if you played soft."

Self is trying to make this be about the team and not about him. That's a classic teflon move, if ever there were one.

So: I'm calling Self out on this here and now: man-up against Ratso in this game, don't just ask your players to man-up.

I don't care if our "crazy young" (Self's words), injury and perhaps sickness riddled team (my words) gets the snot kicked out of them by MSU, or pulls the game of their warm ups and whips a "crazy young" MSU team. MSU is probably younger than KU is.

I want to see Self amped to the roof top and fighting mad the minute the first punch/cheap shot is dished by MSU. I want him off the bench tearing the refs a new one and staring down Ratso. These players, the young ones and the old ones, need to see the old Self, not the one that played it so close to the vest the last two seasons, while coaching XTReme Cheap Shotting Lite.

Either that or I want Self cold as ice and ordering the reserves on the floor to go to work on MSU. I don't care if Self gets thrown out of this one. I don't care if some of our players get thrown out. I never want to see anyone injured in the greatest game ever invented, because it was designed to be a non contact sport. I always call for the referees to call the game the way it was intended. But its time for KU to stop bringing knives to gun fights with Ratso.

I keep an image of Cole Aldrich getting mugged against MSU in the back of my mind always. And so I want to take the fight to them. I don't care if we get beat by a hundred, because of it, or inspite of it.

Self crossed the Rubicon long ago on playing the XTReme Game. Joe and Norm and Kurtis are experienced enough to call the shots for him, if he gets tossed. Play it anyway Ratso wants.


jaybate 1 year, 5 months ago

Part 2

"Dr. Dealgood: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls... Dyin' time's here."

Ratso Izzo is not all bad. He has a wife and children. His players like him. He has won rings. He has reputedly done many charitable things for many people. He is reputedly an honest citizen and he is beloved by the Spartan faithful. These raise him to respectable...but for one thing.

Ratso Izzo has been a ring leader among those that took the greatest game ever invented by the scruff of its neck, and dragged it down in the sewer of XTReme Muscle ball. As I have noted before, his team was half of the ugliest National Final game ever played: the 2000 slug fest between MSU and Wisconsin. It was a game which will live in infamy and deservedly so.

Aunty Entity: Welcome, to another edition of Thunderdome!

KU plays MSU in Atlanta Tuesday night. With apologies to the fine citizens of Atlanta, think of Atlanta as a really nice version of Barter Town in Beyond Thunderdome, if only for this game.

Self has been warning players and fans about this MSU game for quite awhile now.

Self has clearly approached the early games so far not as tune-ups for a season, but training exercises for a hot war, as opportunities to prepare players for what is coming by firing a few live rounds over their heads.

And the troops have not looked totally squared away, or prepared for the violence they are likely to encounter in MSU.

Self himself seems a little out of character.

First time I've ever heard him say, as he did in reference to Kevin Young's one-handed return, "talking automatically brings energy as well."


Haysoos Kreesto, I thought the last half of last season was through the looking glass!

Kevin's our best "talker?"

Is Self desperate for his own Mad Max, or what?

This season, Self has apparently already taken the team through the looking glass by November 11th and thrown the flipping little vanity mirror away to create a one way trip!!!!

Hey, how about we find another year of eligibility for dynamitehawk and put him on the bench and let him joke the other team out of their game, while we're at it! :-)

Self appears to be paradoxing on this MSU game--not unfamiliar technique for him.

On the one hand, he seems to have been building for the game, seems to be geeked about playing Ratso for bragging rights about which young team can survive such an early XTReme Muscle Game.


jaybate 1 year, 5 months ago

"Ratso and Bill: Dyin' Time's Here"

The title above refers to a long ago movie called "Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome" that played when I was laboring through graduate school at the University of Wisconsin and twice a week being appalled by the way basketball was played in the Big Ten. The movie seemed to try to warn us all where the world was headed, and right though it may have been in some ways (though drastically off in others), I took it in a way Australian Director and genius George Miller probably never intended. To me it seemed an ominous foreshadowing of where my beloved game of basketball was heading, which is to me a fairly reliable barometer of where America is headed at any given time.

Once upon a time there was basketball game between a young KU basketball team, it was in Cole Aldrich's first season starting, as I recall. Point guard Sherron Collins fresh from a ring in 2008 was supposed to take 15 shots a game and carry the young team on his back. Early on it met a team from East Lansing Michigan coached by one Thomas Izzo. KU coach William Self, also fresh from a ring, faced Thomas Izzo. And this was not the first time William Self had faced Thomas Izzo. It turned out that Willliam and Thomas had had a few prior meetings, when William had coached the Fighting Illini. And William had gotten the better of Thomas a few times, but William had learned just how rough Thomas taught his players to play.

I frankly had though I had seen a lot of dirty basketball, having gone to graduate school at Madison, Wisconsin, in the dark ages of the 1980s and seen Big Ten Bang Ball for two ugly winters back when I still had a few inches of vertical and the will to shove leapers in intramurals.

But until I saw what Thomas Izzo instructed his players to do to KU that game, I did not truly grasp the resident evil in Thomas "UP" Izzo. And from that game forward, he became incontrovertibly (to me anyway) Ratso Izzo. I call him Ratso Izzo, not only because he has a rat-like face, but because he coaches as a rat would coach, were rats to gain intellect, opposed thumbs, and vocal chords. He moves up and down the side lines like a rat moves. After a dirty play, he smiles as a rat would smile. I do not call him Ratso Izzo, in reference to Dustin Hoffman's Ratso Rhizzo in John Boorman's sad, dreary "Midnight Cowboy." I have nicknamed him for rats that scurry in grain elevators eating the seed stock of the future, as he scurries through the seed stock of the future of the greatest game ever invented eating and destroying that seed stock.


NationalChampsKU 1 year, 5 months ago

I like to come here read the articles and see what people have to say. Today I wish I hadn't. I've become seriously worried about Elijah and the KU program wearing out it's players.

Jaybate do you really thnk Self's practices are weakenng players the longer they stay? The thought of that is ruining my sunday.


Ralster Jayhawk 1 year, 5 months ago

Wow, Self blasts the competition ("we''ll be playing real teams soon"), and pulls out his Big10-bruiser ball motivation ("playing over the last piece of meat", ie., dogfight). He really wants Izzo this time around, it seems...


Rob Bedford III 1 year, 5 months ago

Move Tharpe to starting PG and EJ back to a shooting guard.


Martin Rosenblum 1 year, 5 months ago

I'm going with the conspiracy theory. EJ knows Izzo has been watching our games and he's trying to psych him into a different defensive game plan. Like a magician wiggling out of a straight-jacket at the last second before he would have faced doom, EJ will morph into a Chalmerseque floor leader and scorer and end up as the hero. He'll end up with a TripDub and everybody will forget about these exhib. performances, as they should.


KansasComet 1 year, 5 months ago

Maybe, just maybe Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, and Jeff Withey are still a little banged up from playing against pro athletes in Europe? It was physical basketball against grown men. Just a thought.


jayhawkinATL 1 year, 5 months ago

Speaking of SI, can't believe they have KU as #3. Andy Glockner even picks KU to win it all this year! I just think they are trying to make up for last year.


milwaukeeJAYHAWK 1 year, 5 months ago

Sports Illustrated curse, anyone? lol. He was on the regional cover for the week and I was a bit confused as to why it was him and not Withey....


jayhawkinATL 1 year, 5 months ago

On a completely different note:

Thank god Self & Staff didn't land this dude. They must have heard the rumors.


William Blake 1 year, 5 months ago

"...and those guys think that this piece of meat may be the last piece of meat on earth, and they play like it."

Perhaps my first "Thunderdome" moment in Jayhawkland.

Two men enter, one man leave...


kugrampy 1 year, 5 months ago

Sad really, EJ's op for the next level is diminishing by the game unless something changes quick. It appears like he just does not care, little to no effort or his heart just is not in it. Sure hope he can get it figured out, he has been one of my favorite players and I hope the best for him always.


WindmillGIANT 1 year, 5 months ago

I can't really say I'm glad that I'm not the only one who thought it was obvious that EJ didn't look right physically. The TV broadcast guys didn't even say anything. I kept thinking, "Do you guys not see this? What is going on?"


jaybate 1 year, 5 months ago

This not mentioning EJ's health appears to be reaching an absurd level of denial.

EJ wore strange, quilted looking knee wraps vs. SEMSU.

EJ could barely bend his legs in a defensive stance.

Camera close-ups of him walking to the locker room at half time showed him apparently limping.

Out on the floor, it appeared one leg would barely bend and the other appeared weak.

EJ fouls out against a minor major after almost never fouling out against anyone last season in a run to the Finals.

I write about EJ looking injured during the Newell Post Live and almost no one responds.

I post about EJ looking injured and almost no one responds. HEM, or someone, at least noted that EJ seemed to be bending over all of the time from fatigue, too.

I finally talked to a friend who was in the arena and said, "Am I crazy, or was EJ injured against SEMSU," and he says, "Yes, he sure looked injured to me. Looked sick too. Grabbing at his side."

Come on, LJW pros, what is going on with Elijah Johnson? It is okay for Self to try to mask injury and not say players are injured/sick, but the LJW pros that are at the game and have eyes. They can see if someone is limping.

This is pre-conference for gosh sakes. I don't care if EJ misses all of November and December. He's a proven quantity. All that matters is if he is well enough to start the conference schedule.

EJ healthy is a potentially superb player, maybe our best player. We need him getting well, not walking around like Joe Namath late in his career.


REHawk 1 year, 5 months ago

I've a feeling that Elijah's aging body might come along as slowly as this team's shaky offense prior to league play. If he had the legs, and the confidence in those legs, which he possessed as a freshman, we would see him take flight to the hoop more often. Gotta be something of a jolt to him, watching Rio Adams dancing along lithely in practices. If Rio had even half of Elijah's experience and control at this stage, the EJ body might benefit from more opportunity for rest and recovery. I'm hoping that he doesn't get stressed out on the way to January. It's a very long season for a starter expected to play major minutes twice weekly. Great Jayhawk players like Miles, Langford and Simien found the stress and grind of so many minutes insurmountable during their collegiate denouement and conclusion.


Michael Luby 1 year, 5 months ago

i think the writers are more focused on football this year for some reason, cant imagine why.


Benz Junque 1 year, 5 months ago

Johnson should give HIMSELF the same advice he gave Tharpe...


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