Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Elijah Johnson reclaiming role as Jayhawks’ driving force

Kansas freshman Ben McLemore (23) and senior Elijah Johnson (15) talk during the end of the second half on Monday February 11, 2013 in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas freshman Ben McLemore (23) and senior Elijah Johnson (15) talk during the end of the second half on Monday February 11, 2013 in Allen Fieldhouse.

February 13, 2013


Elijah Johnson realizes that, whether he’s making shots or not, he’s vitally important to Kansas University’s basketball team.

“I personally say that I’ve got to start the car. We can’t drive it until I start it,” Johnson, the Jayhawks’ senior starting point guard, said after scoring five points off 1-of-6 shooting (0-4 from three, 3-3 from the line) with three assists against four turnovers in Monday’s 83-62 victory over Kansas State in Allen Fieldhouse.

“They are sitting in the car waiting,” Johnson added of his teammates. “Tonight I started the car and had everybody rolling.”

Johnson — he played mostly shooting guard a year ago — can be seen during games encouraging younger players such as Ben McLemore and Perry Ellis while not dwelling on his shooting stats — 19 of 76 marksmanship over the past eight games for 25 percent.

“When Ben sees me smiling, he smiles harder. When Travis (Releford) sees me feeling confident he feels more confident,” Johnson said. “When I am doing things the right way, Jeff (Withey) feels better. I feel that domino effect is something people should pay attention to. It shouldn’t be underestimated because when I come in not feeling great, that feeds off everybody.”

Johnson — he’s made just five of 25 threes the last four games with 28 assists against 31 turnovers the last nine games — said he doesn’t dwell on the numbers.

“I love my teammates, man,” Johnson said. “They tell me, ‘You are all right. We are still with you. Whether the fans turn or not, whether the people turn or whether they doubt you, we are still with you because we know on the court stuff is not happening when you are not in the game.’ They tell me all the time, ‘Your stats don’t show what you do for us.’ That has helped me get through all of this ... and that means a lot to me.”

Johnson — for the year he averages 9.1 ppg off 36.5 percent shooting with 110 assists against 77 turnovers — said he received a wake-up call after the Feb. 2 home loss to Oklahoma State when coach Bill Self said the Jayhawks, “don’t have a point guard. We’re playing with two guards, which is OK, a lot of people have to do that.”

“It opened my eyes. He was right,” Johnson said. “The point guard of any team, whether they can shoot it, whether they only pass it, whatever they do, they set the tempo for everybody. When they are walking the ball up, the team is going to play slow. When they are (in) attack mode, the team is going to be in attack mode. I’ve got to make sure I’m always in control of the game. I can’t let the other point guard be in control, because when he’s in control his whole team is in control. When I am in control, my team is in control.”

Self on Tuesday’s Hawk Talk radio show praised Johnson for working overtime on his shooting.

“I watched him shoot 25 threes today. Although he shot way more than that, I stayed and watched him shoot 25 going full speed, game speed. All he did was make 20,” Self said. “He’s going to have a great last six weeks. I believe it and think you should believe it. The most important thing is he believes it and I think he will be confident moving forward.”

Self said Johnson, who is coming off offseason knee surgery, obviously isn’t yet 100 percent.

“He hasn’t complained once,” Self said. “But you know, the kid did have knee surgery. He doesn’t have all his bounce back or pop back. He’s starting to get it. I see things in practice. He’s starting to take some steps. Sometimes your body won’t quite cooperate and do what your brain tells it to do. He is used to being more athletic than anybody. He is used to hitting a seam and getting through it. Now he can’t quite get through it but is still trying to hit it. It takes a while to get that pop back. I see it coming.”

Whenever asked by media about his health, Johnson says he’s “100 percent.”

“He knows,” Self said, “if you are out there, you are not hurt. You have to perform.”

Self the past couple games has had sophomore Naadir Tharpe and Johnson in the game at the same time, Tharpe running point and Johnson the 2 spot.

“I can go to the 2 when Naadir is in,” Johnson said. “I don’t have a problem with it. Today he got a little winded and I came in and got the 1 back. Whatever we’ve got to do to win, I’m down for it.”

Self noted: “People say Naadir can be out there. That’s true. So Naadir plays 20 minutes, somebody else has to play 20 at the point,” Self said. “I believe in Elijah. He’s my guy. I believe in the kid. I feel for Elijah because all he’s done since he’s been here is win a lot of games.

“Try to picture anybody who is a defense attorney and the next year is told he’s a tax attorney. It’s still law, but a totally different deal. Elijah goes from 2 guard to point guard. Even though he’s still a guard, it’s a different deal. He’s got to shoot better. He will shoot the ball better. He was like this last year too, and came on (during NCAAs).”

Now that KU’s three-game losing streak is history, Johnson sees lots of good days ahead for himself and his (20-4, 8-3) teammates.

“We had fun tonight,” he said after the K-State game, played before a loud, supportive crowd. “We needed that. It felt great. I hadn’t had that feeling in a while. That felt good,” he added of the “love” in the building.

Jordan Classic: KU signees Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid have been selected to play in the Jordan Brand Classic on April 13 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Selden will play for the East and Embiid the West.

Recruiting: Andrew Wiggins, a 6-7 senior forward from Huntington (W.V.) Prep, will visit KU for the Jayhawks’ March 4 Senior Day contest against Texas Tech, reports.’s No. 1 prospect also is considering Florida State, North Carolina and Kentucky. ... No. 2-rated Julius Randle, a 6-9 forward from Prestonwood Christian Academy in Plano, Texas, will visit KU for Saturday’s game against Texas. He also is considering Texas, Kentucky, N.C. State, Florida and Oklahoma.


lvlndhawk 5 years, 3 months ago

The vehicle finally started when Naadir connected the jumper cables. Coach needs to restrict Elijah's time behind the wheel. We've been getting our doors blown off with him in the driver's seat!

jhawkinsf 5 years, 3 months ago

Who cares? Well, consumer spending drives this town (and most of our overall economy as well). People spend more here when K.U. is winning. So whether or not you like basketball, the fact is we all do better when K.U. wins.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

The money spent is discretionary income. It'd be spent one way or the other regardless of how well KU does. And some folks spend lots of money that isn't really all that discretionary-- taking off time from work, buying expensive tickets, hanging out in bars-- when they'd probably be much better off spending the money on things more critical to their health and well-being.

Don't get me wrong, I like bread and circuses, too, and waste way too much time following KU BB, but at least I don't fool myself by telling myself it's somehow for the betterment of all.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 3 months ago

There is a competition for those discretionary funds you speak of. Last March, local hotels filled as K.U. went further in the tournament. The fans ate at local restaurants, drank at local bars, bought Final Four T-Shirts at local stores (I'm wearing one as I type). People simply wanted to be around other like minded fans. Why drink in a bar in K.C., Mo., where half the fans were rooting against us, just as I cheered on Norfolk St. Those people wanted to be there for the celebration down Mass. St.

What would people do with their discretionary funds if K.U. doesn't march on? Go to a Royals game? A Chiefs game? A Sporting KC game? After all, we're talking about sports fans.

So, yes, you're correct about it being discretionary funds that will be spent anyway. But you're wrong if you're suggesting that it will be spent locally no matter how K.U. Basketball does.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

Of course, there are winners and losers in the discretionary spending sweepstakes.

By your reasoning, the Royals and the Chiefs, and everyone else selling tickets for anything, should be rooting for KU to lose every game.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 3 months ago

My reasoning is that if you would rather have increased sales tax receipts coming into the city of Lawrence rather than Wyandotte County or Kansas City, Mo., then K.U. doing well is one way to accomplish that.

It all depends on where do you want the potholes fixed, here or there? Where do you want increased public transit, here or there? Where do you want a new library, here or there? A new shelter, here or there? Shall we have the funds to spend on a water treatment plant or shall that, along with other infrastructure projects be allowed to deteriorate?

While it's fine to think globally, it's equally fine to act locally.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

Yes, that's the conventional zero-sum-game line of thought.

But those potholes would get filled faster and the sewage treatment plants built much more quickly and efficiently if the money spent on discretionary items and services were spent instead directly on those projects rather than diverting them through bars and $multimillion entertainment palaces.

Bread-and-circuses have their purpose in life, but it ain't for the purpose of funding basic services and infrastructure.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 3 months ago

The potholes would get filled faster and the treatment plant would be built faster if you got off your computer, got a first, second, third and fourth job and donated 100% of your earnings to the city. I'll refrain from criticizing you for not doing so if you agree to refrain from being critical of others who are spending their money in ways they see fit. Agreed?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

I didn't criticize anybody for their spending choices. I merely pointed out that they do it for their own entertainment, not because it'll fix a pothole somewhere.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 3 months ago

Look again at your posts. You certainly are critical of them.

fabian_zimbabwe 5 years, 3 months ago

This is a SPORTS story in the SPORTS section. The "other important things" to which you refer are well covered in their respective sections on this news site (and many other such sites on the World Wide Web). Isn't modern-day technology wonderful? Have a nice day!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

Actually, it also shows up in the "discussion on stories" section that includes most stories that appear in the JW, sports included. His opinion that it's unimportant is just as valid as your opinion that it is important.

Kent Noble 5 years, 3 months ago

EJ was 1-6 shooting, 0-4 from 3 point line. I don't call that starting the car!!

Brett Fuller 5 years, 3 months ago

Wow - taking credit for that turnaround is bold. Stats don't lie!! Ben and Jeff played back to their high standard and Tharpe is speeding up the game.

Jim Williamson 5 years, 3 months ago

This piece flies in the face of everything we've seen the last 10 days, particularly last Monday night. I appreciate the kid's swagger, but if he truly believes this, he could shoot-and-turnover KU right out of the NCAA tournament.

jonas_opines 5 years, 3 months ago

Yeah, the timing of this is pretty questionable. Regardless, there's a degree of truth to what is required of him, if not necessarily support for the idea that he's accomplished it to a great degree just yet. But we won't make a deep run unless he plays back up to his potential, which is significantly more than what's been on display since January. Whatever rhetoric he needs to get him back into form, by all means.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 3 months ago

Yep. Tharpe played well in the last game, but don't forget that he played just as poorly as Johnson during the last several previous games.

As goes Johnson the rest of the season, so goes the team.

Robert Rauktis 5 years, 3 months ago

Up to K-State, Tharpe was playing at the level of Rio now. He will still oscillate in his capabilities. They'll win it as a team. Not with messiahs.

Matthew Herbert 5 years, 3 months ago

new headline: "Elijah Johnson realizes he just lost his starting job; hopes Coach Self didn't notice"

astispumanti 5 years, 3 months ago

Real ballers never lose confidence, keep shooting it!RCJ!

Patti Lash Brown 5 years, 3 months ago

Which game was this? I see too many ball turnovers from him.

MarcoPogo 5 years, 3 months ago

You know who else said he was an excellent driver? Rainman.

5 years, 3 months ago

Elijah take a tip from Kobe, you don't have to score just assist.

riverdrifter 5 years, 3 months ago

What an odd article, given Tharpe's performance the other night. Agree with ribman: was this written last November?

georgiahawk 5 years, 3 months ago

Proud to be a Jayhawk right up to the point that I read the comments above! I always wonder about fans that demand perfection from the players and whether they make the same demands on themselves. Get behind the kids, they are young and far from perfect, get used to that idea. If you want perfection, stand in front of a mirror and demand it of yourself. Once you achieve that; if you have attitudes like exhibited by those above, still sit down and shut up, you are not of the human race any longer!
As it turns out, the Jayhawks have been great to watch while I have been away from the Jayhawk national headquarters. I watch with a fresh eye unfettered by over demanding a--holes and their uninformed "all knowing" view points.

repete66211 5 years, 3 months ago

It's perfectly legitimate to evaluate the performance of a player. Such comments wouldn't be made if they didn't care about the team. Monolithic fanaticism is for ideologues.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 3 months ago

It's perfectly legitimate to evaluate a person's performance if you have the requisite skills to make such an evaluation. Otherwise, you're just putting in your two cents, which is worth exactly two cents. Don't spend it all in one place.

repete66211 5 years, 3 months ago

So only people who are able to perform a double backflip can judge Olympic gymnastics? The "requisite skills" needed to judge EJ's ability can be nothing more than understanding basketball and following the Jayhawks.

jayhawkjohn71 5 years, 3 months ago

EJ - you did not start the car against K-State. You got your usual 2 fouls and sat on the bench. Your stats are deserving of a bench position. What you need is a dose of humble pie.

Kent Noble 5 years, 3 months ago

EJ put some arch on your shot and you will comeout of your shooting slump. Line driving the ball to the basket will only make things worse!

Paul Wilson 5 years, 3 months ago

HCBS needs to teach EJ how to evaluate his game. How can you say “Tonight I started the car and had everybody rolling.”? 1 of 6 with 3 assists to 4 turnovers? Am I missing something here. He started nothing and needs to be shown that.

“When Ben sees me smiling, he smiles harder. When Travis (Releford) sees me feeling confident he feels more confident,” Johnson said. “When I am doing things the right way, Jeff (Withey) feels better. I feel that domino effect is something people should pay attention to. It shouldn’t be underestimated because when I come in not feeling great, that feeds off everybody.”

Sorry man...I just don't see it. We beat KSU in spite of you "not feeling great"....again. You're teammates were not looking at you Mon they were looking to keep the ball out of yours and PE's hands to avoid turnovers. This team is slowly beginning to revolve around NT. It's up to you though. You can actually take control... or continue to delude yourself into thinking that you haven't put yourself in the back seat and now need to earn the steering wheel back.

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