Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Reaching new height(s): Taller, bulkier guard Elijah Johnson eager to prove himself in 2010-2011

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson attempts a dunk over teammate C.J. Henry during a slam dunk competition for the campers at Bill Self's basketball camp Tuesday, June, 15, 2010 at the Horejsi Center.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson attempts a dunk over teammate C.J. Henry during a slam dunk competition for the campers at Bill Self's basketball camp Tuesday, June, 15, 2010 at the Horejsi Center.



Blue team guard Elijah Johnson throws a pass to the wing over red team guard C.J. Henry during the second half of a scrimmage at the Horejsi Center for Bill Self's annual basketball camp Wednesday, June 29, 2010.

Kansas University sophomore combo guard Elijah Johnson has stretched from 6-foot-2, 183-pounds to 6-foot-4, 195 in just one calendar year.

The Las Vegas native grinned late last week when asked how he pulled off such an impressive physical feat in such a short period of time.

“Eating peanut butter and lying upside down on the monkey bar. That’s how I did it,” he said.

“I think it’s the calculator. I feel like I grew a little bit, but I think last year they went off my senior year stuff,” the former Cheyenne High standout added in a more serious tone.

Whether Johnson actually has grown more than an inch since arriving at KU — or just been fitted for a loftier pair of sneakers — might be subject to debate.

But the weight gain as reported on KU’s 2010-11 roster?

That’s accurate, Johnson maintains.

“I’ve been eating like crazy trying to get my weight up. I don’t want to be able to be moved easily this year, so I did a lot of eating. And lifting weights ... me and Hudy (Andrea, strength coach) are becoming best friends,” Johnson said.

He might have sampled a protein shake or two, though not as many as, say, lanky 7-footer Jeff Withey, who is now 235 pounds after starting last year 225.

“It’s not a new diet,” Johnson said. “I just try to eat regularly and get in the weight room as much as I can.

Johnson — he averaged 2.4 points while dishing 29 assists against 16 turnovers in 23 games his freshman season — also has taken advantage of the Jayhawks’ 24-hour access to the squad’s practice facility, which opened about this time a year ago.

“I usually like to shoot at night. I don’t know why,” said Johnson. “A lot of my teammates like to shoot during the day, but I go in there at night. I’m the type who will show up at 1 in the morning to go shoot rather than 7 in the morning.”

By shoot, he means shoot a lot.

“Right now, I’m on a quest to put up 650 (shots) a day. Every night I do that,” Johnson said. “Me and my little brother (who lives in Vegas) made a pact. He told me I can’t go out if I don’t go to the gym first.

“My team likes to have fun. I don’t want at the last second to hear everybody is going out and know I can’t go because I didn’t go to the gym that night.”

So Johnson enters the gym and attempts shots from all over the court. He hit 21 of 38 shots last year (55.3 percent), including four of 14 threes (28.6).

“I actually was in the gym one day (last year) — me and Thomas (Robinson) were in the gym shooting around. Coach (Bill) Self gave me some pointers. He just gave it to me in five seconds. Like always, it kind of summed everything up,” Johnson said.

“He directed me on how I’d be able to get my shot off on the college level much easier. At first it was uncomfortable,” Johnson added of Self’s suggestion to go for higher arc. “I felt I was destroying my shot because I was shooting uncomfortable. I was transitioning, and I was trying to keep up with the speed of the game.

“Now that the season has been over for a while, I’ve had time to really ease into the pace of college with that shot. It has made everything easy.”

Johnson has discovered it’s tougher to get one’s shot off at this level than in high school and AAU ball.

“I always had the shot,” he said. “In high school I could get away with the shot I was shooting. I could make it 90 percent of the time. In college I could shoot the same (flatter) shot and I won’t make it 90 percent of the time just because of the speed of the game, the height of the players, momentum of the whole atmosphere.

“It’s a jump shot. It’s a shot no matter where, three feet or 30 feet, it doesn’t matter. I shoot the ball.”

And he elevates before lofting it high.

“I have to think that on the average, I’ll be guarded by a 6-5, 6-6 player rather than a 6-1 player. I have to make sure if I do run into this player ... maybe I haven’t run into a 6-6 defender the whole year, then in the championship game I run into him. I don’t want to be shooting a flat shot and have that be the reason we lose,” Johnson said.

Junior Tyshawn Taylor has noticed the improvement in Johnson’s overall game.

“I think everybody knew what Elijah could do. He was just in a situation he didn’t play too much. He had guys in front of him,” Taylor said. “He’s good. He’s gotten stronger. He’s been working a lot on his jump shot. His jump shot has come along.

“It’s changed a bit. He’s getting it up higher. He’s jumping more. I think it looks good. I think he has more confidence in it as well.”

Johnson has not lost any of his explosiveness.

“He is very athletic,” sophomore Travis Releford said. “He’s so quick. He can cause problems being a defender. He has a bunch of strengths.

“He’s hungry,” Releford added. “I mean, just wanting to come back and prove himself. Going into his sophomore season he wants to be able to play, like everybody else.”

Johnson — he never complained about playing time his freshman season — said he again will accept whatever role comes his way.

“It’s something you have to wait,” Johnson said. “When I say wait, I don’t mean wait for your turn, but wait and see how everything plays out.

“It might be better for me to start this year. It might be best for me to not start this year. It’s whatever is best for the team. It’s not my year. It’s our year. It’s the team’s year. It’s coach Self’s year.”

Of Johnson, Self said: “You feel he’s just scratching the surface. He’s ultra-athletic, played well early, not as well late. We feel he has a bright future.”

KU fans certainly hope that to be the case. Perhaps because of his hops, Johnson emerged as a fan favorite a year ago.

“Last year when we played K-State here, coach called me off the bench. It was the last thing I was expecting at the time,” Johnson said. “I walked to the scorer’s table. I felt I noticed the crowd basically gave me a standing ovation, but I didn’t know if that is what was happening every time (a KU player subbed).

“It just felt different because it was me. I didn’t take it in too much. My teammates started to tell me, ‘The fans started going nuts when you were about to come in.’ I said, ‘Yeah, they did, huh?’ I thought I was feeling myself a little too much. I guess they probably wanted a little more than a sample.”

Johnson hopes to provide a full helping his soph season.

“I’ll definitely keep my fans happy. I won’t disappoint them. I won’t,” he said.


Nutflush21 11 years, 8 months ago

Elijah says all the right things. Im really excited to see him and Releford play significant minutes this year.

duanep5ku 11 years, 8 months ago

I must agree with the previous two posters on what they said on here and I want to add this is the type of player that KU fans love. The player that represents the team first concept over the me first attitude that a lot of today's players have. Elijah, I hope you have a great season and hopefully this will be your year to shine at Kansas,good luck.

JHawk74 11 years, 8 months ago

Elijah sounds like a good teammate and a good building block for KU basketball. His attitude seems similar to Russel Robinson who waited out their chance to play and were rewarded significant playing time their sophomore seasons.

JayCeph 11 years, 8 months ago

I guess I've never understood the rationale behind insulting someone for their opinion on a message board since it only serves one purpose, showing others how narrow the poster's mind is. It actually paints the one who posts the disparaging comment in a really negative light.

I don't agree with soobawls on this statement but, if they were to say something positive and glowing about KU or Self or the basketball team, I suspect they'd be revered or applauded or whatever... and it would still just be their opinion. Nothing more and nothing less.

There is rarely empirical evidence behind many of the opinions on this board (or any board for that matter) and should, therefore, be read for its worth. Nothing more and nothing less.

To delve into insults (name calling) is pretty infantile and counter-productive. Be better than that.

Ron Franklin 11 years, 8 months ago

anyway, soooooooobizzzles makes a great point here anyway. it has to be cognitive challenge deciding what value lies in showing the world of OAD's that they do have a place here, and actually playing the best player at any given point in time.

wileykufan 11 years, 8 months ago

In what way do you think Xavier under-performed? Especially compared to other freshmen (there are only two who had better freshmen seasons - statistically).

And, Who would be playing in place of Xavier? Elijah doesn't play the three.

Nutflush21 11 years, 8 months ago

Yeah that Xavier guy sucked. He couldnt even be the highest scoring freshman in KU history. Instead he had to settle for 2nd best behind some Manning character. What a joke! So glad he is off the team.

waywardJay 11 years, 8 months ago

Soooo Another astute point though, i think you underrate what Xavier meant to us.... the player you should be fronting in this argument is Brady. brady got minutes last year just because he is brady, and until the end Coach really wasn't willing to go away from Brady.

Xavier provided at least a decoy out there on on off nights because everyone knows shooters can get hot off nothing. Xavier wasn't a waste of space out there statistically, Suggesting that Xavier's incosnsitant Offense would be like suggesting Cole was a waste of space out there offensively. When he provides intaigibles you still give them minutes. Brady's intangibles were usurped by other players, and yet minutes still came for alot of last season. tat's the guy EJ should have been taking minutes from.

Ryan Richey 11 years, 8 months ago

Hope to see more of him and less of Tyshawn.

Scott Smetana 11 years, 8 months ago

Took the words out of my hands... TT has the driver's seat, but I'm thinking EJ or Reed will be close behind to take up minutes should he not play at a prime level consistently this year.

LilNick15 11 years, 8 months ago

This is Elijah's brother, From Vegas. Just letting everyone know the night workouts are paying off tremendously and HE won't stop working. Even when no one is awake. HE will be GRINDING! Expect good things this year Jayhawks!

Hawkin8r 11 years, 8 months ago

Props to you for being a great brother and helping Elijah reach his goals.

gchawk 11 years, 8 months ago

You sound like an awesome brother, keep up the good work. My two older brothers and I would push each other in much the same manner that it sounds like you and Elijah do, just keep doing it. All 3 of us played college ball and had the times of our lives. What are your plans?

cklarock 11 years, 8 months ago

Excellent influence in your brothers' life. The two of you will go far -- there is no better ally than a good brother. Well done.

cklarock 11 years, 8 months ago

Oh, and the Jayhawk Nation is 100% behind Elijah. A fan favorite to be sure.

waywardJay 11 years, 8 months ago

Work Ethic gets lesser players into starting roles. Work ethic with extremley talented players makes them legends.

Someday very soon I expect Elijah's hard work will begin paying off.

Thanks for the Update, keep up your inspirational work as well.

KEITHMILES05 11 years, 8 months ago

There have been rumblings of his work ethic. If what he says is true then this is good news. He's got great competition and he needs to keep grinding. He's so athletic and needs to be on the court.

tulsahawkfan 11 years, 8 months ago

Well, Elijah had me at waving the Jayhawk shirt at that high school All-Star game. He is one of my favorites I can't wait to see him develop into a major role on this team. We're pulling for you. Keep working hard. We will need you this year.

Chris Shaw 11 years, 8 months ago

Yes! An article on EJ. It's great to read something about the kid during the offseason and how his summer has gone. EJ became a hot topic in last weeks message boards so it's good to see him get some publicity.

Keithmiles: I heard some of those rumblings as well, but I'm glad EJ seems to be "Hungry" and ready to step up his game.

It really is pretty crazy to think about how athletic Selby, EJ, and Taylor are at the 1 and 2 guards. I hope in due time I will be able to make some comparisons to Mario, Russ Rob, and Collins, but I also hope they write their own storylines. There is no questioning that this current trio is hands down more athletic and more explosive, but we'll see if they can defend and turn into the shooters that that trio of 2008 demonstrated.

jh1808 11 years, 8 months ago

Agreed! This trio has the potential to wreak havoc on the perimeter defensively. And from what I've seen, they can all finish in transition. Throw in Releford, and this team should run some people out of the gym this year.

Chris Shaw 11 years, 8 months ago

I hope Selby, Taylor, and EJ have been watching Rose, Gordon, and Westbrook of Team USA over the last two weeks. Throw in Steph Curry and those Team USA guards are playing somthering defense like none of I've seen a while. Pretty impressive. Hopefully, they are taking notes.

Dan Harris 11 years, 8 months ago

Lets hope that Selby gets cleared it's taking too long .

KU_FanSince75 11 years, 8 months ago

@ kushaw---I agree. It will be pretty crazy to see all the athleticism at the 1 & 2 guards this season!

Good article on a guy that has a great attitude--thanks, Gary.

DCJayhawk0208 11 years, 8 months ago

LilNick, thanks for jumping in! I know I'm a big fan of EJ and am really hoping he does tremendous things this year. What a great attitude!

RockChalk26 11 years, 8 months ago

I am a huge EJ fan! I hope he gets some more time on the court. Especially after learning about all the hard work he has been putting in.


RockChalk26 11 years, 8 months ago

I am a huge EJ fan! I hope he gets some more time on the court. Especially after learning about all the hard work he has been putting in.


NebraskaJayhawk 11 years, 8 months ago


What's the chance of gaining another 100 pounds to bolster our offensive line this year? Think you could be ready by the time the Big XII schedule begins in about 4 weeks?

honk_for_hawks 11 years, 8 months ago i just want to see more of this. can we please try playing small ball occasionally with maybe EJ, Selby, TT, Releford, and McM? That lineup would be so ridiculously fast. Not much rebounding but they could play fast enough that it wouldn't matter. Hopefully with all these athletes we will see more alley-oops this year. That championship team and the 07 team had oops probably 10 times a game or more. That might have been the most entertaining college team I can remember ever seeing.

RockChalk26 11 years, 8 months ago

You beat me to it. I was going to upload the same video. That is one of the best dunks I have ever seen in a game. The guy is crazy athletic.

honk_for_hawks 11 years, 8 months ago

that's nothing compared to what I've seen him do at the KU rec. I saw him do a behind the back 180 reverse there. That was just sick.

chickensandwich 11 years, 8 months ago

I can't wait to peep EJ's game this year. He is definitely one of my favorites for the future of the Jayhawks. Hopefully we can get 3 more years out of him, he can get a degree AND go make bank in the league.

imnotpaulpierce 11 years, 8 months ago

C'mon guys... It's football season!


steamboat 11 years, 8 months ago

No!!!!!!!!! it was football season. Bring on hoops

BigGuyDon 11 years, 8 months ago

With that talk of being guarded by a guy who is 6'6", it sound like Coach might be prepping EJ to play some 3 this year. I can see us going three guards regularly if Releford and Little can't hit the three.

dynamitehawk 11 years, 8 months ago

That's nothing. Sherron put on 25 pounds in two months.

jaybate 11 years, 8 months ago

650 shots a day means Self told The Prophet exactly why he didn't play last season and it wasn't TOs. Interesting.

I only wish he had picked specific spots on the floor to master. Each spot is a different shot. Wooden proved that statistically long ago. Only a very few great natural shooters can pull up anywhere and pull the trigger.

The Prophet seems ready to fulfill prophesies.

When Travis Releford and Tyshawn Taylor think Elijah is athletic, The Prophet be off the charts.

jaybate 11 years, 8 months ago

Post Script on Elijah:

Shooting baskets at 1AM is a great contraceptive device. :-)

jahawkdave 11 years, 8 months ago

When is the Lew Perkins resigns story going to be up. C'mon KuSports / LJW this is old news already.

ABeesus 11 years, 8 months ago

I almost fell over laughing; great wit, thanks!

ABeesus 11 years, 8 months ago

Sorry; I meant to post in reply/appreciation of Dynamite Hawk's comment!

yed 11 years, 8 months ago

Great kid, nice story. I hope to see a lot of Elijah and Thomas Robinson this season. I think that long-term, these guys were the real gems of that recruiting class.

yovoy 11 years, 8 months ago

i've said time and time again that i like this kid because of the things i see him doing when he's not in the game. he's always smiling, he's always one of the first of the bench for props. i live his attitude, and i KNOW he can play. my brother lives in vegas and told me about this kid could play when we were in on him. i wasn't worried about his ability. after seeing his attitude and reading this article, i'm sure he's going to have the success he deserves.

i always thought of EJ as TT w/out the luggage. i sort of think they are from a similar mold. i also always thought that TT was sort of the odd man out, and i think i was right. considering that he sort of had to take a back seat to Daddy, i think i'm willing to give him a break. i'm MORE willing to believe that if he doesn't do his job, that we'll have a couple of people that can replace him. i wouldn't cry if it was EJ.

KULA 11 years, 8 months ago

What a joke that all these guys grew two inches in one year. Who do you think you're kidding? What a load of BS!

John Randall 11 years, 8 months ago

Elijah is two things: a super talent, and as good an attitude as someone with the life experience of being "the guy" for his team could have this early in his Div I career. It is good he works hard on his shot, his game, and (if I read his comments about "my" fans correctly) not yet quite the attitude which elevates a team beyond the abilities of the individual players.

There could be no better player to emulate than RusRob. As much as any Jayhawk in my memory (since 1958) RR helped every teammate stay on the same page, especially at the start of the game and early in last half. That quality, plus awareness of the importance of defense, more than his (or anyone else's) stat lines gave HCBS a presence on the floor that kept things from getting overbalanced by any one ego, or disrupted by any opponent's strategy.

I thought a year ago that CJ Henry, without injuries, could have brought us that presence. It didn't work out that way, and without such a presence, the team floundered whenever the first option wasn't enough. Bill Self is likely better able to find and recruit "glue guys" than anyone besides Coach K (who often has more "glue" than "pieces"), or Izzo (who always lacks "pieces).

Among all the talent available in the backcourt, the biggest key to KU going all the way will be having the attitude which puts team success – WIN the game – at the top of everyone's priority list. All the players will mouth that platitude . . .

EJ may become the catalyst who lives it, SOMEONE has to, or 2010-11 will be another 'close, but no cigar' season.

Geekinout 11 years, 8 months ago

Too bad coach Self couldn't fix Cole's shot!! That thing was and still is awful! He'd been a completely different college player if his shooting motion didn't require him putting the ball behind his head...

jacqueshock 11 years, 8 months ago

This is the best quote of the whole story:

“I have to think that on the average, I’ll be guarded by a 6-5, 6-6 player rather than a 6-1 player. I have to make sure if I do run into this player ... maybe I haven’t run into a 6-6 defender the whole year, then in the championship game I run into him. I don’t want to be shooting a flat shot and have that be the reason we lose.”

That's thinkin' with yer head!

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