Archive for Monday, February 4, 2013

KU’s Elijah Johnson says Sunday’s three-hour team meeting with head coach was productive

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson elevates to throw a pass as Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte defends during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas guard Elijah Johnson elevates to throw a pass as Oklahoma State guard Phil Forte defends during the second half on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 at Allen Fieldhouse.

February 4, 2013, 3:18 p.m. Updated February 5, 2013, 12:12 a.m.


Kansas University senior basketball point guard Elijah Johnson was in need of a pick-me-up on Sunday, the day after his turnover on KU’s final possession proved pivotal in a rare Jayhawk loss in Allen Fieldhouse.

“Usually I don’t,” Johnson said, asked if he required a pep talk or two during the course of a season. “But yesterday I did, and coach (Bill Self) gave it to me. I didn’t realize until I went home that’s what I got. He gave me one.”

Self spoke to Johnson and the rest of the Jayhawks during a three-hour team meeting in the fieldhouse that took place after the Wilt Chamberlain Special Olympics Clinic.

“We talked a lot yesterday. We talked a whole lot yesterday,” Johnson said.

Self naturally had a lot on his mind after an 85-80 setback to Oklahoma State, KU’s first home loss in 34 contests and second in the last 104 outings in Allen.

“I like the confidence he (Self) is putting in me. I know he’s still riding with me no matter what. I’m just trying to grow up right now,” the slumping Johnson added.

Self on Monday said Johnson will remain the No. 5-ranked Jayhawks’ starting point guard.

“He’s my guy,” Self said. “He hasn’t played as well as he is capable of playing. I think in our situation, we should judge our point guard more by his record (19-2) than we do his stats. And I do know this: For us to have any chance of being a national contender and competing at the highest level, your best players have to play well, and he is without question one of our best players. He is my guy. I’m going to ride him, and it doesn’t make any difference what happens, statistically, as long as I know he is trying and cares. He is my guy and will remain my guy, period.”

Self didn’t stop there.

“I look at the (Super Bowl champion Baltimore) Ravens. How many games did they lose this year? Seven or six? They lost three in a row, and they didn’t bench (QB Joe) Flacco,” Self said. “You look at the Giants last year. They lost seven. They were 9-7 and win the Super Bowl, and I don’t think (head coach Tom) Coughlin was benching Eli (QB Manning).

“I think sometimes losses are OK as long as you get better through them. I think losing at home, to be honest, was good for us. If I was going to pick to lose on the road or at home, I would pick at home because it would definitely be more of a humbling experience than it would be if it didn’t happen at home. I don’t want to lose — don’t get me wrong — but I think for our team, our mind-set and psyche, I think it was probably good for us to be humbled.”

As far as other messages in the meeting in the fieldhouse, Johnson explained: “We sat over there for about three hours talking about what we didn’t do hard, what we did do hard, and it balanced out the wrong way. They outplayed us. There were a couple plays he showed us where players from their team were diving on the ball, and there were four people on our team standing around watching them do it. The same thing with rebounds.

“Everything on the court falls back on me. I never rallied our team at the end of the game. I blame that loss on me 100 percent because no matter what was going on in timeouts on the court, regardless, a senior guard always rallies the team up and gets the fieldhouse to turn up and take care of the job. I never did that. I had a blank face out there, and I didn’t like that at all.”

Johnson said he was struggling about this time last year as well — Self noted that his stats are similar — and turned it around. He said he’ll fix the problem at practice.

“Personally I don’t think I’m doing a good job at practice,” Johnson said. “I’m kind of pacing myself, and it’s coming back to haunt me now. I think that’s what I’m struggling with now.”

Johnson, who said his surgically repaired knee is 100 percent, said his confidence will be helped when he starts hitting shots. As far as the team? He said the Jayhawks have been taking for granted the fact they’ll pull out games, especially at home.

“It’s losing focus, getting used to stealing those games like that,” Johnson said. “Not really finishing it out and still coming out with a win. We were way too comfortable. I felt we needed that. From a team point of view, we thought we couldn’t be touched here. We thought at the end of the game no matter what we’d have more points. Oklahoma State showed us different.

“It probably was the worst place to happen, the worst team to do it to us, but we needed it. I definitely think we’re going to show what we learned from that game in a couple weeks or so.”

Ben’s future: Self discussed the possibility of Ben McLemore’s heading to the NBA after this season. McLemore and his AAU coach/mentor have been quoted by the Journal-World saying they will not even think about the pros until this season is complete.

“I would recommend Ben definitely explore, and hopefully he’ll want us to help him,” Self said on his “Hawk Talk” radio show. “Then he must make a decision where he thinks he’ll be at age 20, 25, 30, 35 and if another year helps him accomplish his goals or going ahead and getting out and starting to earn a paycheck would be the best thing for he and his family. I would never say, ‘Stay,’ (to Ben) because his family has sacrificed an awful lot for him to be in this position.

“The kid is a unique kid. You never know,” Self added. “When he studies everything ... one thing we know about Ben, he’s going to be great next year, too. His draft stock (projected top-five pick) isn’t going to go down because he stays. His draft stock is going to be great next year, too. It’s going to keep getting better because he’s so gifted athletically.”

Next: KU will meet TCU at 8 p.m. Wednesday in Fort Worth, Texas.

Practice important: Andrew White III, whose six points in the final minute almost saved the day vs. OSU, on what’s ahead: “Everybody knows it starts today. We have to have good practices, and we have to come out a lot faster in the game. Performance-wise, we’ve been walking on that fine line between winning and losing for a long time. As a team, we feel we were overdue for a loss based on how we were playing. In practice, we’re going to try to clean it up and keep doing what coach is telling us to do and try to get a streak going.”


Steven Gaudreau 5 years, 2 months ago

Only way it will end up productive is if E.J. is benched.

windjammer 5 years, 2 months ago

Have you lost your mind on Coach Self? I think so.

fancy80 5 years, 2 months ago

All you haters said the same crap last year about Tyshaun. I trust Coach Self.

What are your win/loss records Grandma and Larry?

Topple 5 years, 2 months ago

0-0 because talking heads never get off the couch.

jonas_opines 5 years, 2 months ago

"Why not try some of these other guys at point?" Who?

"Surely, some others currently on scholarship can play point?" Who?

We have one other person who can play point right now at a competitive level, and that's Tharpe. Tharpe IS a point guard, and is a much more natural one than Johnson. He will undoubtedly become a better one than Johnson is. But Tharpe is still developing, and more importantly, he Can't play 40 minutes each game, even if he WAS fully developed as a college player. We have to have one other person who has chief responsibility for handling the ball. It's not Releford and it's not McLemore. Both of those guys are wings, sort of a mix between shooting guard and small forward, and they play best by moving away from the ball and getting passed to. Same with White. Rio Adams had a lot of TOs in the few times he's been playing.

We will not make a decent tournament run unless Johnson both plays AND improves. Because without him we only have one primary ball-handler. We could theoretically start Tharpe for a bit to see what happens, but if you want a slumping player to get through their slump and back to their potential, you don't just Bench them. You keep on them, keep them playing, work them in practice, express confidence in their ability to improve, and hope that they get through the slump and start playing well again.

Bull-headedness, on the other hand, is just going "bench him!" and then saying, without looking at reality "surely someone else can play point!"

jonas_opines 5 years, 2 months ago

"I do not think White can do any worse and I think we all have to agree his shooting % will be higher."

No. You'd be surprised at how much worse it Could be. Point guard is the most difficult spot on the floor, takes the longest to learn, and requires the most innate understanding. You don't just throw somebody on to it and say: "here, play point". That's pretty much what happened with both Taylor and Johnson, and in both cases it's obviously taken a loong time to mesh, even with people who had already been playing for multiple years.

I think you'd also see White's shooting percentage drop substantially. Post up shooters maintain their accuracy by moving away from the ball for a pass, or riding a screen and then taking the open shot in the rhythm of the play, not by creating it.

jonas_opines 5 years, 2 months ago

Do you not know the difference between a shooting guard and a point guard? That report was saying he'd make a good fit at the two spot (shooting guard), rather than the three spot (small forward) he'd been playing in high school, not the one spot (point guard), and the reasons are almost identical to the reasons I pointed out already.

jonas_opines 5 years, 2 months ago

So, your suggestion is to pull a fifth-year senior, in February, after our second loss of the season, and replace him with a freshman shooting guard who was a power forward, who has not been scouted, evaluated for, or show any great ability at either ball handling or assists, for our point guard, because he has a sweet jumper, and is compared to a pure shooting guard in the NBA?

I'd explain how foolish this idea is, but that you even propose it tells me that explaining any further wouldn't matter at all.

notaubermime 5 years, 2 months ago

You want stats? At 6-6, White is too tall for a point guard at this level. White also has just one assist to 8 turnovers. That is not point guard material. Elijah Johnson, for all of his failures, is leading the team in assists. He is also leading the team in coughing up the ball, but unlike White, he has more assists than turnovers. Johnson needs to perform better, but arguing that White could step in midseason and play well at a position he has no experience with is just bizarre.

jonas_opines 5 years, 2 months ago

Particularly with Tharpe already there and developing, and a new ESPN Top 30 point guard coming next year.

And yes, Larry, I'm well aware that players have made the switch from 2 to 1. I'm less aware of players who have made the switch from 3 to 2 to 1, all within a season, but by all means, feel free to enlighten me.

Self, of course, looks at what's happened on the court and comes to the same conclusion I have, as (for that matter) does White himself, if you read the other article featuring White the other day. So unless you're going to claim that Self himself has red and blue blinders on, I think it might be better to simply ask yourself if you might not simply be in error regarding the support for your conclusions.

Looking at EJs stats past the last few weeks suggests a player currently shooting and passing under his abilities (i.e. slumping), not one that can't play. But it’s pretty clear, looking at your suggestions for improvement, that you pretty much saw a stretch where one player turned it over, and one player shot well in one 2-minute stretch in one game, and are basing a decision (that would have ultimately enormous ramifications for not just the rest of this season, but on the flavor of the program as a whole), on that one span of time.

Players like Releford, Tharpe, Johnson, Withey, Robinson, etc. have stayed with our program and not transferred when receiving limited playing time, because our program fosters the belief that if they continue to do so, to put in the work while getting limited minutes, they will develop and then lead our team when their year comes, with the trust of the coach to work with them as the leaders, even when they are slumping. Pulling a player who put in that time, because he’s in a slump, would not only impact the only way slumping players pull themselves out of it, but would damage that reputation severely. All because we lost, for the 2nd time this year, and dropped to (gasp) Number 5 on the AP, and a 2-seed in the tournament, were the tournament to happen today.

Jim Williamson 5 years, 2 months ago

Coach Self's failure to recuit a true point is coming back to bite him on the arse.

rtwngr 5 years, 2 months ago

Note to LJW sports editorial staff: Coach Self has forgotten more about coaching basketball than all of you numbskulls will ever know. Drop the "start Naadir" mantra because it's counter productive to the morale of the team and the fan base.

jonas_opines 5 years, 2 months ago

Have you ever considered that his remarks may be less the patented truth as he sees it and more an attempt to elicit a specific reaction from his players?

jukiehawk 5 years, 2 months ago

Elijah will be fine. I don't think we should be in the business of doubting/questioning Self. There is no one on the team who can do better. I think it makes no sense to bench Elijah. I doubted Bill for 3 years for sticking with Tyshawn, but he really pulled it together last year. Elijah will rebound and this team will be competitive in March. We are so spoiled as fans of this great program that we call for a player to be benched after the secord loss of the season. We should consider ourselves lucky.

riverdrifter 5 years, 2 months ago

As I've said, I was critical of EJ two months ago and got tarred and feathered for it around here. I still think Self is the best and who better to get this sorry-ass 19-2 team dug out of the muck than he?!

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