Freshman Johnson Records First Career Start
Dec. 9, 2009
LAWRENCE, Kan. –
The Kansas basketball team saw a shake-up in its starting lineup as freshman guard Elijah Johnson earned his first start in place of sophomore Tyshawn Taylor Wednesday night against Radford.
When asked to describe the experience of starting for the first time, Johnson was able to narrow it down to four words: overwhelming, excited, energized and comfortable.
“Overwhelming tonight just meant I couldn’t believe it,” said Johnson. “It didn’t register until they called the starting five and then it really dawned on me that I was starting in Allen Fieldhouse for the first time. That overwhelming feeling was just breathtaking.”
The Las Vegas freshman never envisioned starting this early in his career.
“I always saw myself coming off the bench, being the energizing player and giving the team more energy,” Johnson said. “But if he [Head Coach Bill Self] needs me to set the pace, I can do that too.”
Although Johnson was forced to sit the bench early in the first half for quite some time because of foul trouble, when he was on the floor, his motor was always running, showing some feistiness on both ends of the court.
“Coach got on me the other day because I did the same thing the UCLA game; I got in and picked up two fouls,” said Johnson. “I just need to calm down and realize there is a difference between pressuring and fouling. I need to give my men a little space and obviously I didn’t want to give them any space.”
The Highlanders were the first team that matched up size-wise at every position with the Jayhawks so far this season. Radford stuck with Kansas for the first 10 minutes of the game before the Jayhawks started to take control of the game and pull away.
When Johnson re-entered the game with his two fouls, the freshman picked up where he left off with the pressure defense.
With five minutes left in the first half, Johnson tallied his first points of the game when he connected on a three-pointer from the corner with the assist given to senior Sherron Collins.
Going into halftime, Johnson was the team’s leading scorer with nine points, going 2-for-2 beyond the arc.
It didn’t end there. Right out of the gates in the second half, Collins dished Johnson an impressive alley-oop. The dunk put the freshman into double figures, and Johnson was the first Jayhawk to reach double figures for the night.
The first-year Jayhawk showed off more of his skills when he snatched an offensive rebound at the top of the key away from the Highlanders, and was able to kick it out to an open Collins for the easy three.
Johnson joined Collins, senior Cole Aldrich and fellow freshmen Xavier Henry, C.J. Henry and Thomas Robinson in double figures for the night with his 11 points. Those six combined for 75 points in the Jayhawks’ 99-64 win over the Highlanders.
In his first collegiate start, Johnson said he felt comfortable coming right onto the floor and in his opinion, he thought the first go-around went well. He also said that while on court with the other four starters, he envisioned his role as the person to feed Collins and Aldrich the ball.
“I feel like Sherron [Collins] has to get everyone else going, but I feel like I could take a lot of weight off of him if I can get other people going and get him going too,” Johnson said. “I can get them the ball more and let them do what they do best and show why we’re number one in the country.”
For the night, Johnson registered 11 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and committed zero turnovers in 15 minutes of play.