The Sideline Report with Elijah Johnson
Let’s get right to this edition of The Sideline Report with Kansas guard Elijah Johnson. For full disclosure, our chat took place on Tuesday of last week.
The Sideline Report with Elijah Johnson
Jesse Newell: How much notoriety did you get from your 360 dunk?
Elijah Johnson: Around the country, a lot. I got a lot of feedback about that dunk. A whole lot.
JN: Who are the craziest people you heard from?
EJ: That’s hard to say. I just heard some off-the-wall stuff. Some people told me that was the best dunk they’d ever seen in their life. Some people told me they actually had tried to do it and it’s an impossible dunk. Just a lot of different kinds of comments.
JN: Was that something planned or just something you did?
EJ: No, I don’t plan. I was on the sideline, and I just said that when I get back in, I’m going to do something. I didn’t know it was going to be that, but when I saw the opportunity, I definitely took advantage of it.
JN: Had you ever done that dunk before?
EJ: Yeah, I’d done it a couple of times.
JN: You said you were a KU fan growing up. What do you remember about the Jayhawks?
EJ: Just the style of basketball. That’s what drew me to the school. They like to throw alley-oops. With me being a jumper, that attracted me right away. They play a lot of guards, and they play a nice offense to let everybody have equal opportunity.
JN: Do you remember the players from back then?
EJ: Yeah, I remember a couple of players. I wasn’t too familiar on the names, I just went with Kansas. I know Ju, Julian Wright. Of course, I know the championship team. I know a couple of people before that like Keith (Langford), of course Wayne (Simien) and a couple more players that came through.
JN: What did you think of Julian? Was he your favorite?
EJ: He wasn’t my favorite. I just thought he was different. He stood out to me. He was very different. He took a chance that a lot of people don’t take — like, actually trying crazy dunks on fast breaks and stuff like that. That’s what attracted me to his play.
JN: Are you glad he did that before you got here?
EJ: No. I’m happy he did it, because that showed that he wasn’t scared. It gave me a little more confidence to know that coach gives you the opportunity to show your talent.
JN: What’s something that would surprise me about you?
EJ: (long pause) I don’t like looking at NBA basketball.
JN: Why’s that?
EJ: I feel like I don’t quite understand what they’re doing yet, so I wouldn’t want to look at it and confuse myself, thinking I’m knowing what I’m talking about when I don’t.
JN: What don’t you understand about it?
EJ: Just like all of the complex stuff about it. The behind the basketball. The detail of the game. I’m starting to understand it more now because, what coach has showed me so far, I’ve seen flashes of it on the court when I watch the NBA game. But I don’t like to really just stare it down and try to see the game for what it is, because I might be looking at what I don’t understand yet.
JN: So you think it’s much more complex at that level?
EJ: Yes, and I don’t want to look at it and confuse myself before I get there. That’s why I glance at it. I try not to look at it too much.
JN: So when you’re flipping though channels at home, you don’t ever stop on NBA? Not for a long period of time?
EJ: Not really. And I don’t listen to volume on TV anyway. I always have music playing, so even if I do, I don’t let the announcers say some things that coach Self wouldn’t say or another college coach wouldn’t say to confuse me.
JN: So your mind is just pretty much focused on Self, then? Are you trying to only take in his words?
EJ: Yeah. Pretty much. But, for the most part, just the college level. I feel like it’s a stage that you go through, and right now, I’m not ready for that NBA stage. I’m trying to learn the steps and all the small things to get me ready for that level. I’ll watch it and I’ll take the things that are pretty obvious about learning, but for the most part, I try to keep it on the college level.
JN: Do you like the college game better than the NBA game?
EJ: Right now, I do. But once I learn it … it’s just like a new video game. Once you get it, you like it, you love it. But by the time the next one comes out, you’re ready to go to that one. I’m pretty sure I’ll grow more of a love for the NBA as time goes on.
JN: So you don’t listen to announcers when you watch games? Always music?
EJ: I can’t listen to announcers.
JN: Why’s that?
EJ: I feel like they confuse you a lot. They give a lot of views and opinions that they don’t too much know what they’re talking about sometimes. A lot of them do. I’m not saying that they don’t. Just not in my terms.
JN: You can admit it. Media members aren’t smart is what you’re saying, right?
EJ: No, not necessarily. Just you wouldn’t phrase it in a way that I’m used to learning it. I’m used to learning it in the way that the coach can put it to me instead of the way that you all would put it.
JN: Who’s the goofiest teammate on this team?
EJ: When I’m here, me.
JN: Really? Why’s that?
EJ: Even in the most hard practices, I try to make some people smile. I know that sometimes, it gets tough, and people don’t really want to go through practice and are dragging. So I try to say something to the twins or irritate Tyshawn to get a smile on his face (smiles) or do something to Sherron. Just, I always try to be that extra energy in the building.
JN: Can you give me a specific example of something you did to Tyshawn to lighten him up?
EJ: Like call him Tywahn. I call him that. He gets an attitude, and he looks at me, and he gets mad every now and then, but before I know it, he’s smiling and going along with it.
JN: Does he hate the name Tywahn then?
EJ: Oh yeah, he hates it. I wouldn’t even put it in the interview if I were you.
JN: What’s surprised you the most since you got here to KU?
EJ: Coach Self.
JN: What about him?
EJ: He just knows so much. He doesn’t say too much sometimes about stuff that isn’t that important, but I notice he knows everything. He notices everything — all tendencies, all habits, just everything. The way you think, he knows even before you react — like 100 percent of the time what you’re going to say or how you will feel about it.
JN: Is there a time where you thought, ‘Gosh, he knew what I was going to do before I did it’? Or, ‘He knew something I didn’t think he knew’?
EJ: Yeah, now, because I’m pretty predictable with the coaches. If they tell me something, I won’t argue with them. I know that I don’t know, and I know that they know. So when I mess up — I’ll do something dumb, and Coach … I think, personally, it’s pretty hard for him to yell at me, because it doesn’t really affect me. ‘I know, Coach. I know I messed up. I know I don’t know what I’m doing.’ But I won’t argue with him too much.
JN: Does that make you different? A lot of players think they know it all, and you act like you know that you don’t know it all.
EJ: Yeah, I think that makes me pretty different because I accept it. I think a lot of people know that they don’t know, but they don’t accept the fact. I accept the fact that I don’t know too much. Coach knows. He’s been doing it for too long to have me come in after a couple months and try to tell him what to do.
JN: Are you a quick learner because of that skill?
EJ: Yes, I think so. I really do. I think that in the long run, it’ll show, maybe my sophomore year, maybe my junior year. It’ll show that I never resisted what he’s tried to tell me. Not one time.