Kansas Basketball Preview: What To Expect From Elijah Johnson

Ethan Miller

When Elijah Johnson committed to Kansas out of Las Vegas in 2009, he was the 4th ranked point guard and 24th ranked player overall. He chose Kansas over Texas and Oklahoma and everyone thought Kansas was getting an athletic dynamo who would do stuff similar to this for a couple seasons of Lawrence and then head to the NBA.

To say it hasn't worked out that way would be an understatement. Viewing Johnson through that prism, it would be tempting to call him an understatement. But, a closer examination of what he has actually done in his college career reveals him to be anything but.

As a Freshman he played sparingly on the 2010 team that lost in the second round to Northern Iowa. As a Sophomore he played in only about 12 minutes per game, but played well enough (115 offensive rating, 62% eFG) to cause a lot of Kansas fans (incorrectly) to want him to start over Tyshawn Taylor.

Last year he suffered a setback in efficiency terms, dropping to a 107.7 offensive rating and shooting at just a 53.1% eFG clip. His assist rate stayed steady and his turnover rate dropped from 25.3% to 19.2%, but his story last year was one of shooting inconsistency.

Game to game offensive rating and 3 point percentage is naturally going to be unstable, but if this were an EKG, Johnson would have tachycardia:

Johnson's season can be broken down into chunks. From the beginning of the season to December 10, Johnson shot an OK 33% from three. Then for the next two months he plummeted to around 27%. Finally, as I've mentioned numerous times on here, Johnson finished the season shooting 44.4% from three. That's not to say that he will be that good of a shooter this year, but I think that is a lot closer to the real Elijah Johnson. He shot 34% both from three and on two point jumpers last year, so there's no doubt that he needs to improve, but he shot the ball really well as a Sophomore and was good from two as a Freshman, so I think he can.

Johnson also is an extremely athletic guard, even if for some reason he doesn't show it off as often as he should: He took just 25% of his field goal attempts at the rim last year despite shooting 75% on those attempts, which was a higher percentage than anyone else on the team.

Johnson assumed a lot of the point guard duties over the second half of last season once it became more apparent that Tyshawn was going to be more of a pure scorer, and after a brief adjustment period he adapted to the role very well. He had 35 assists and just 16 turnovers in the final 11 games of the season, including a 5 assist, 2 turnover game against UNC in the Elite 8.

With two Freshmen in the starting lineup (most likely) and with a lack of sure offensive options (though I am absolutely certain that one or more of McLemore, White or Adams will emerge as a perimeter threat) a lot more will be on Johnson's shoulders this year. Because he will be expected to have the ball in his hands so much, and play so many minutes, don't be surprised if his turnover rate climbs a bit this year. But I also think that he will score a lot and do so relatively efficiently. He has the natural athleticism to get to the rim almost at will and I think will have a good year shooting the jumper as well. Put it all together and Johnson is poised to become the latest point guard to lead Kansas to a Big 12 title and maybe a second straight final four appearance.

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