Friday, October 12, 2012

Setting the pace: Senior guard Elijah Johnson relishing lead role for KU

Kansas University Senior point guard Elijah Johnson says he’s ready to step up as the Jayhawks’ leader on and off the court. KU coach Bill Self said he’ll rely on Johnson to teach and keep the team’s nine newcomers in line.

Kansas University Senior point guard Elijah Johnson says he’s ready to step up as the Jayhawks’ leader on and off the court. KU coach Bill Self said he’ll rely on Johnson to teach and keep the team’s nine newcomers in line.


For the first time in a long time, there’s a new point guard running the show at Kansas University.


Elijah Johnson talks about his leadership style, adjusting to personalities and being the favorite

video thumbnail

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson discusses leadership, adjusting to personalities and being the Big 12 favorite. He talked to reporters during KU media day on Oct. 11, 2012.

He’s former Jayhawk combo guard Elijah Johnson, who takes over as floor general following the departure of four-year starter Tyshawn Taylor, a rookie with the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets.

“Hand the keys over. I’ll drive. I definitely will drive,” the articulate 6-foot-4 Las Vegas senior said Thursday at men’s basketball Media Day in Allen Fieldhouse.

“But it’s not just about me,” Johnson quickly added, disagreeing with an inquisitor who referred to the 2012-13 Jayhawks as “Elijah’s team.”

“Thanks for the compliment,” Johnson said, “but it’s still, ‘our year.’ If we lose, Travis (Releford) is going to feel worse than I feel. Jeff (Withey) is going to feel worse than I feel. Kevin (Young) is going to feel it’s our last run. I’ll share it with them,” he added of his fellow Jayhawk seniors.

Johnson, who averaged 10.2 points a game with 137 assists against 71 turnovers last year for KU’s NCAA runner-up team, does admit it’s nice to be a lead guard once again.

The last time he had the same responsibility was his senior year at Cheyenne High.

“Honestly, yes I have (missed it),” Johnson said. “I think that setting the pace and being a person who can bring air into the room, giving life ... I think that’s the funnest part of basketball. I really do.

“Personally I get to have — I don’t want to say more fun — but I get to set the speed. Last year we played at Tyshawn’s speed, whatever that had to be. Sometimes he was downcourt before everybody. I’m setting the speed (now). I like that the most.”

Johnson said he’s planning on letting his true personality flow freely his senior campaign.

“Not to say I’m this fancy, flashy basketball player, but last year I did everything how it’s supposed to be done — out of the book,” Johnson said. “I didn’t add an ‘Elijah Johnson flavor’ to it. I just did what I’m supposed to do, but this year ... I plan to have a little more fun because you’ve definitely got to rile some of these people up.

“There’s a little more freedom that comes with the years. I don’t think coach will have a problem with me being comfortable out there doing what I do as long as it’s beneficial.”

Coach Bill Self said Johnson has earned his trust.

“It is one of those things that I am going to hold Elijah responsible for how the freshmen perform. If he wants to be a leader, he is going to have to make sure those guys’ heads are right to give us the best chance,” Self said.

Johnson has already wrapped his arms around the Jayhawk newcomers: Case in point, Boot Camp, when the players were exhausted after running sprint after sprint, day after day for a two-week period.

“One day we were running and Landen (Lucas, frosh center) ... he wasn’t about to break, but it was getting to him. Everybody was trying to motivate him saying, ‘C’mon, c’mon.’ I said ‘Leave him alone.’ I looked at him (Lucas) and said, ‘You’ve got it.’ He finished it. The tiredness just left. That’s what people need to hear sometimes, when you feel the whole world is against you.

“I feel Landen would do anything in the world for me. I’m not saying I did it for that reason, but that’s how it works. I’ve done that with a lot of people. There’s still some people I haven’t had a chance to get to. I let them know, ‘I’m personally here for you. You want that lob, I’ll throw it to you. You want a backscreen, I’ll set it for you.’ It’s a mutual thing. I don’t want people to think it’s all about the seniors or one person in the starting five. It’s about people on the bench, too.”

Freshman Ben McLemore and Rio Adams said Johnson has already proven himself worthy of being starting point guard on a Big 12 and national title contender.

“He’s great, one of the best point guards I’ve ever seen — a great person on and off the court,” McLemore said.

“He is a leader on and off the court. It’s all we need from him. He’s keeping us focused,” Adams stated.

Johnson said he learned a lot from his buddy Taylor, who like Johnson, enjoyed talking to the media.

There is one difference between the two, however.

Taylor liked to express himself on Twitter; Johnson not so much.

“I’m not big with social networking,” Johnson said. “I feel you should think about things rather than just stating an opinion for a few seconds that might change tomorrow. I stay off all the social networking. I get on and I read because it’s definitely interesting. I choose to not really share too many thoughts on there.”

Self believes fans will be tweeting a lot of positive comments about the Jayhawks’ new, starting lead guard this season.

“We are going to rely on keeping the ball in Elijah’s hands probably more so than we even did last year with Ty (Taylor),” said Self, who said he hopes Naadir Tharpe and Rio Adams are capable backups. “The thing about Tyshawn last year, he had the ball in his hands at game point for important possessions most of the time, but Elijah could take pressure off of him. This year we are going to have to do a good job of developing some other guys and getting Travis (Releford) and Ben more comfortable with the ball in their hands and basically being smart on how we play Elijah and rest him to make sure he is fresh going down the stretch.”


D20 1 year, 6 months ago

I think last years' success was built on two very important facets:

1) The team had a certain grit and determination that is rarely seen in sports these days. Unlike other teams we faced, we didn't have the best talent and finesse that money can buy. We had to sweat it out and find ways to scratch and claw our way to victory even when the odds were greatly stacked against us.

2) We always seemed to have a player that would step up if one of our key players wasn't able to. If TRob was too bogged down with double and triple defenders, TT could step up and make the plays. If not TT, Releford would step up. If not Releford, then Withey. If not Withey, then EJ. If not EJ, then KYoung came in short bursts to light the fire.

These two points lead to putting up quite a few in the W's column. The reason that I think this years' team could even surpass last year is because we have an awful lot of the names mentioned above who are returning. They know grit and determination. They know how to score. They know how to overtake a game when their number is called. And they have something that last year didn't: a bench and a talented group of freshmen.

It'll be fun to watch!


jaybate 1 year, 6 months ago

~Does Andrew White understand that until early February, he is going into the toughening box, and even if he were to go 6-6 from trey and make a buzzer beater to knock off a top ranked team, Self will say, "Andrew's falling in love with his shot, did not feed the post worth a darned, and was softer than Play Doe on defense?

~Does Landon Lucas understand that by being a pleasant surprise so far, that means his mail will be being sent to the toughening box whenever Andrew is let out?

~Does Evan Manning ever think about wearing his hair in shoulder length braids and saying, "Yeah, pop was pretty good, but he can't grow hair worth a darned, and he couldn't drain the trey like I can"?


jaybate 1 year, 6 months ago

"First to Ask Department"

In which jaybate leaps into the abyss of early questioning...

~Does Tyler Self wear a rug?

~Does EJ ever feel tempted to say to Kentucky fans:

  “And there came a writing to him from Elijah the prophet, saying, Thus saith the LORD God of David thy father, Because thou hast not walked in the ways of Jehoshaphat thy father, nor in the ways of Asa king of Judah, / But hast walked in the way of the kings of Israel, and hast made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to go a whoring, like to the whoredoms of the house of Ahab, and also hast slain thy brethren of thy father's house, which were better than thyself: / Behold, with a great plague will the LORD smite thy people, and thy children, and thy wives, and all thy goods: / And thou shalt have great sickness by disease of thy bowels, until thy bowels fall out by reason of the sickness day by day.” ?

~Is Perry Ellis the reincarnation of Perry Ellis the fashion designer? (there: I had to get that one out of my system now!)

~Will Jeff Withey force the creation of a new basketball stat called the "mind alteration"?

~Does Travis Releford realize while guarding the life out of his man, out anticpating every move, and giving Self whatever he asks for on offense, that a significant number of fans (excluding jaybate) interpret this to be tentativeness?

~Does BenMac realize that all he has to do to become immortal is score 20 points his first game and be quoted after the game as saying: "Its so nice to be playing in a state where people can read"?

~Does Justin Wesley realize that whether the fans recognize it yet, or not, there are going to be many times, when he is the best defensive match up KU will have inside at the substation points?

~Does Kevin Young realize he is going to play a ton of minutes and probably have a great season that will make everyone wonder why they didn't see it coming?

~Does Jamari Traylor realize that he should not get too comfortable thinking he is a back up at the 4, because Self could easily turn him into the first point post man that brings the ball up the floor regularly, while also asking him to teach the team how to cook Chicago style pizza?

~Does Zach Peters understand that he only gets to rest the shoulder till January, and after that Self will expect him to tape his arm behind his back and play one armed the rest of the season...and be able to dribble both ways?


jaybate 1 year, 6 months ago

"Top Stories from the Micro Wave Mind Control Sports Network: Tachyon Based Sports News from the Future"

~Let's cut to the chase here, sports fans: KU cuts down the nets in April beating UK by ten to avenge last year's loss. The Prophet aka A Player Formerly Known as Elijah Johnson" scores 43 going 11-12 from trey, and 10-10 from the foul line. Withey blocks 13 shots and alters 7 more, while snagging 20 rebounds. Perry Ellis goes wild out of the 4 dunking six straight times during one stretch, while Ben Mac and Travis hound UK offenders into asking to be taken out. KU shoots 67% the first half and coasts for a win.

~jaybate is discovered to be the anti-Menken. He goes all 777 over the 666 pessimists and bets his entire childhood coin and stamp collection, plus his Aurora slot car racing set and electric vibration football game on KU winning. He cleans up.

~Calipari blames the loss on injury problems this season. Nike made UK a special shoe called AirBourbon that had fluid suspension soles with digitalized pneumatic stabilization ducts and valves. During a UK blow-out of Fizzou (173-20) electro conducting rubber circuitry comes in the shoes comes in contact with the Wild Turkey injected in the souls and three UK starters are briefly electrocuted and left with cardiac arrhythmias that limit their endurance the rest of the season.

~Coach Self asked about the cardiac arrythmias says, "That's nothing, Releford played through a heart transplant this season we didn't tell any one about. UK and Cal need to man up."

(Note: all fiction. No malice.)


texashawk10 1 year, 6 months ago

I haven't really posted any expectations for this year, so here goes. Like just about every year, this team is talented enough to reach the Final Four, but there are so many factors beyond just talent level that determine who reaches the Final Four each year. In the non-conference portion of the schedule, I can realistically see this team go 13-0, but I think 12-1 is more likely. MSU, St. Louis or TAMU (whoever KU plays in KC), Colorado, Belmont, OSU, and Temple are all quality opponents. In Big 12 play, I see KU going 15-3 and winning another Big 12 title. KU has had issues playing in Austin, even with KU's gaudy record in Bramlege it's still a rivalry game, Morgantown will be a new experience for this team, Stillwater is a place Bill Self has had issues at, and ISU is always tough at Hilton. I think KU loses three of those games and enters the Big 12 tournament with an overall record of 28-3 or 27-4.

As for player stats, EJ will lead the team in scoring averaging about 18 a game while also leading the team in assists at about 5 per game. Jeff Withey will lead the team in rebounding and average a double-double this year with a 12-11 average. I think McLemore will be second on the team in scoring with 13 a game and I think he will be a sneaky good rebounder getting about 5 per game. Perry Ellis I think will average 9-7 this year while Releford I think will be in the 8 point range. I do think Releford could be a 15 ppg guy, but that hasn't been his role and will not be his role this year either. He might go off for 20+ a couple of times again this year but Releford's job is to shut down the other teams best scorer and Self doesn't want Releford expending more energy than necessary on the offensive end of the floor.

As for the bench, Tharpe, Young, and White will be the primary guys off the bench with Traylor, Young, and Lucas fighting to be the fourth big. Peters injury sounds serious enough to where it could jeopardize his PT this year as he appeared to be in line for the 7-8 minutes the fourth big normally gets. Tharpe isn't going to counted on to score very much so I think he will average about 4 and 3 for the year. Young is going to be the bench guy who gets the most minutes as I see him playing about 20 minutes this year and averaging about 7 points and 4 rebounds a game. Andrew White will play the Tyrel Reed role during Reed's sophomore and junior years where he came off the bench and was the team's designated sniper. White should be in the 6 point per game range to have a good season. As for the 4th big man role, I think we'll see that end up being a committee role and if Self can get 4 points and 3-4 rebounds per game from that role, I think he'll be happy.

That scoring load comes out to 81 ppg which is at the high end of where some of Self's best offensive teams have been and I think this team very could be right there in regards to scoring.


FarSideHawk 1 year, 6 months ago

Isn't the latenight supposed to be on ESPNU? I don't see it on the website schedule.


Tony Bandle 1 year, 6 months ago

LOOK OUT.....BigManU [kushaw to us oldtimers] has awakened from hibernation..that means only one thing....BBALL TIME!!!

My Predictions: 1. Kansas will go 40-0 and win the National Championship beating UK 149 - 98. 2. Jeff and EJ will be All-Americans 3. BenMac will be a frosh lottery pick and Big 12 Freshman [sort of] of the Year. 4. Dickie V will pick Duke to win it all...and be wrong again. 5. Calipari will finally get caught and UK will forfeit the last 90 games. 6. The world will NOT end [although the K-State fans with Bruce Weber will wish it did] 7. Jaybate and TexasHawk44 will actually agree on something.[This may be the least likely] 8. Tyler Self will transfer to Tulsa because of lack of PT. 9. Our porn star Jayhawk fan returns as an honorary cheerleader, going commando.


William Blake 1 year, 6 months ago


  1. EJ

  2. BMac

  3. TRele

This combination may become the best back court theft crew in college basketball history!

From here on out we need to promote our trio's on-court "criminal activity" to the max! We can help build their confidence as thieves by encouraging their "five finger discounts" on the hardwoods!




Wear the t-shirts, slap on the bumper stickers, let's go!

Support this "heist crew" and let's steal another National Championship!



Joel Thomas 1 year, 6 months ago

How do you not like EJ? His game is graceful and polished, and he has always exhibited a team-first attitude.


William Blake 1 year, 6 months ago

I'd like to know how EJ spent his last 6 months since the Final Four. I hope he spent a chunk of it with John Lucas. Lucas helped TT with his shot... but more... he showed him how to finish at the rim, something EJ still needed help with.

If EJ can penetrate effectively this year then he is in for a big year. Effective penetration will load up his stat sheet with assists and made FGs. It will also help push defenders back on the perimeter and give him more clean looks from the top of the key.

EJ needs good numbers to help bump up his confidence, which will end up being the deciding factor for what kind of year he has.

You have to love his TO/Assist ratio! The guy can take care of the ball, something you need from your PG. And this year, with so much young talent, having a PG who protects the ball well will help counterbalance all the freshmen mistakes which are bound to occur.

This year EJ doesn't have TT around to crutch on. EJ will have to carry the load on his own back. I am optimistic that EJ will step up to the challenge and deliver! He appears poised for the challenge; already jumping out in a leadership role with his teammates.


Chris Shaw 1 year, 6 months ago

I keep seeing the phrase, "This team will be better than last year!". What does that actually mean? Will their record be better? Will they actually cut down the Nets for a National Championship because to be better than last year winning the National Championship would in theory trump that belief?

I am going to go with about the same expectations I had with last year's team. I predicted 8 or 9 losses and KU ended up 32-7 last year. Actually, I think the team will be on par and I am going to predict 7 or 8 losses this year.

With that said here are some concerns with this team (Keep in mind, there are so many positives, but I am only going to address my concerns or possible road bumbs):

1) Jeff Withey- I thought Jeff Withey was going to have a monster year last year and I was right. Having T-Rob was the perfect supplement for Jeff Withey. Defensively, I think Jeff Withey is going to be on par with last year. He is going to have to watch his fouls a little more this year because he is the "Anchor" in the middle.

Offensively, I think we should curtail expectations with Withey. If you expect Withey to be this big dominant much improved player from last year than I think you will be disappointed. I hope I am surprised as hell, but I don't think it will happpen. What I mean, is that Withey should be the 3rd or 4th option on offense and I think if that happens that will take the offesnive pressure off of Withey. EJ, McLmore, Ellis and to some degree Relly need to take that pressure off of Withey.

I truly believe that if Withey is the 1st or 2nd option that that isn't the best recipe for success. We will see and I may be wrong, but I just don't see that being a good option. You have to remember that this is technically Withey's second full year of playing even though he is a red-shirt senior. Could we see a sophomore slump? I hope not, but it could happen.

2) I am worried about the Ball Handling duties. EJ I am not worried about, but I am curious about the combinations Self is going to use With EJ, Relly, BMac, Tharpe, and Adams. Relly and BMac aren't true ball handlers so I am curious how Tharpe and Adams are going to step up or step up at all? I am hoping Tharpe will surprise and I am confident he will, but I am curious how is going to to be used in the lineups.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk!!!!!! Basketball Season is here!!!!!!!!!!


Konkis Dongington III 1 year, 6 months ago

Wild jayhawks are a dangerous pest native to Mizzery. Though resembling the Kansas Jayhawk in form, they are noted for lacking the Kansas Jayhawks distinct demeanor. Where the Kansas Jayhawk is a fierce predator with a noble bearing, the wild jayhawk is a bottom-feeding scavenger. Don't feed the wild jayhawk or it'll stick around forever.


Ryan Michael 1 year, 6 months ago

I've been waiting for EJ's leash to be cut since he got here... Until now it always seemed like there was another PG that Self allowed off their leash, but EJ was always yanked for doing anything outside of the basics.

I have a feeling that being the Go-To guy, and being the senior leader is going to put EJ over the top. I have always liked his play, and his dedication to the team and Selfs system. It's his time now, and this is the most excited i've been heading into a season in a long time.

In my opinion EJ is going to shock people all over the country this year... I sincerely hope so, because he seems like a great young man that deserves it.


Tony Bandle 1 year, 6 months ago

Losing our two best players in TT and TRob is more than compensated for:

1) by the return of America's big man stud Jeff 2) coupled with senior-experienced Travis and Kevin, 3) the anticipated breakout year for EJ,
4) a game-tested Naadir 5) plus an overall significant talent increase with BenMac, Perry, A&W, Jamari and the eventual Zach Attack. 6] as well as possible surprise contributions from Rio and Landen.

To think that, last year, Conner Teahan was our actual first man off the bench compared to the potential talent of this season's've got to smile in anticipation!!


offline 1 year, 6 months ago

Watchout for the Wildcats, they might pound the Hawks like they did in football.


wildjayhawk 1 year, 6 months ago

Better recruiting prior could have given more hope for this year.


hucking_fawks_rock 1 year, 6 months ago

EJ will shine this year. He was clutch all last season, and now he gets to run the show. No doubt in my mind that EJ will create some national buzz.


TexasHawk44 1 year, 6 months ago

People sometimes forget what a stud EJ was coming out of H.S. Here's to a break out season for him!


Konkis Dongington III 1 year, 6 months ago

Out of all the story lines that will develop this season, this is perhaps the one I'm most excited to see. We're taking the shrink wrap off a brand new EJ. The Prophet shall lead them. Can't wait to see how he does it.


onetime_77 1 year, 6 months ago

I think by the end of the year, EJ will have proven himself to be a better floor leader than TT. I think our scoring will be a problem for a lot of teams this year because any one player can go off for 20+, not just the usual suspect. We do need someone to be the "tough guy" though. T-Rob last year and the twins before set a (mostly) good standard on that. Who will it be this year?


Ron Franklin 1 year, 6 months ago

This is good to hear. I have always thought EJ was one of the more articulate speakers on the team, but I questioned his aggressiveness and determination to lead. I'm seeing bright spots here and I hope they shine on through completely.

On another note, I have a really bad feeling about the Zach Peters injury. That decision to play football his senior season could ultimately cost him a career in basketball. That's the worst case scenario, obviously, but still a possibility.


clevelandjayhawker 1 year, 6 months ago

When Traylor and BMac were allowed to practice the 2nd semester last year the whole team improved at a faster rate. I am looking forward to seeing how this team unfolds, we had no depth last year and were some missed dunks and a couple of stops away from cutting down the nets. We have a lot of young guys, but we have senior leaders and the best coach in the nation to get us prepared for March.

I wish we were picked 3rd or so in the conference rankings and lower than 10th in the national rankings, nothing worse than high expectations, I want our team to play like no one believes in them outside of Lawrence.


joeloveshawks 1 year, 6 months ago

I'm really looking forward to seeing EJ play the point this year. He has been so incredibly patient waiting his turn. He was a top 30 recruit and has essentially had to wait until his Senior year to be able to run the show. I think that says a lot about his character and maturity. With the ball in his hands every possession this year I have a feeling he will be the Big 12 Player of the Year. Rock chalk.


jayhawkeratheart 1 year, 6 months ago

EJ, This is your year. You have all the talent necessary to be the leader that you know you can be. Your skills are off the chart, and with your excellent decision making, that has been seen in the past, you now have an opportunity to make believers out of the rest of the world. Bill only picks winners at that spot, and he has chosen the right leader this year. Playing second fiddle to others is always hard, and very seldom do we get to see the real EJ at any given time. But now is the time, and you will do great. The name Elija Johnson fits into the names of great Bball players, just like Isaiah Thomas, Danny Manning, Larry Bird, Paul Pierce, etc. It's just a name that sticks with you. Looking forward to a great season, with some great leadership. Rockchalk


nuleafjhawk 1 year, 6 months ago

I'm glad I read the whole article.

I'm probably one of the few who, in the past, did not have a man-crush on EJ, but I never saw anything that he did that really knocked my socks off or made me go " WOW, am I glad he's on our team ".

I feel much better after reading that Coach Self said that Johnson has earned his trust.

AND - after reading that EJ said " I'm not big with social networking " - well, he may just be my new favorite Jayhawk.


jaybate 1 year, 6 months ago

Elijah may set the record for most 30 point games by a KU guard and most game winning baskets, unless Ben and Trav come on strong.


KansasComet 1 year, 6 months ago

This year's team will be better than last year's team. Everything is in place. Senior leadership, Freshmen that have been in the system for a year, and the High School Player of the Year...I absolutely love it. If we can get the rebounds that we lose with Robinson's departure, we will be just fine. Ellis appears to be a more natural scorer than Robinson was? Not saying that we won't miss Robinson, but we will move forward. Elijah Johnson may not have Tyshawn Taylor's speed, but he also does not turn the ball over as much as Tyshawn, so that should be an improvement. Ben McLemore should be able to score and defend better than Conner Teahan, so that position should be an upgrade as well. Yes, we did lose 3 important pieces, but I feel that we have gained a lot as well. Go Jayhawks!


mitch 1 year, 6 months ago

Good team chemistry + focused leadership = success on a Bill Self coached team. Play smart, be tough, and know the fans are on your side. Rock Chalk Jayhawk Go KU!!


Commenting has been disabled for this item.