Johnson steps up
(Peter G. Aiken/US PRESSWIRE)
Phog.net
Posted Mar 17, 2012


OMAHA, Neb. – With Tyshawn Taylor sidelined much of the second half Friday night due to leg cramps, the point guard duties fell to Elijah Johnson. The junior from Las Vegas handled them capably, putting his versatility on display and providing signs that he may be hitting his groove at just the right time.

Elijah Johnson is a luxury for the Kansas Jayhawks in many ways.

His athleticism, for example, is off the charts and allows him to impact the game on both ends of the floor. Few 6-foot-3 guards can play above the rim as effortlessly as he.

His long-range shooting is another plus. Though Johnson's shot has struggled through long stretches this season, he's never lost confidence in it. Neither has Head Coach Bill Self, and it appears as if the Las Vegas native is finding his stroke again at exactly the right time. In Friday night's victory over Detroit, he was 3-of-4 from beyond the arc.

However, there may be no one to which his benefit is more apparent than his teammate, Tyshawn Taylor.

In the first half versus the Titans, Taylor - the primary point guard for the Jayhawks - was being constantly pressured up the floor by Detroit's Donavan Foster. So he signaled to Johnson to take over the ball-handling duties, allowing them to set up plays in the half-court more quickly.

"Him doing that takes a lot of pressure off of me," Taylor said. "I love the fact that he can be a point guard or a two guard. When I went out of the game he took it under control, he ran the team. That's what he's been learning. He's been learning to play point guard the last two years he's been here, and this is his team."

It certainly was for much of the second half Friday. After Taylor left the game at approximately the 13-minute mark with cramps - and did not return - Johnson slid over to the point to guide the team home to victory.

His stat line was impressive, as he shot 75-percent from the floor en route to 15 points, pulled down four rebounds and dished out a pair of assists.

This season, much of the responsibility for dribble penetration has rested on Taylor's capable shoulders, and he's responded by developing a reputation as one of the most dangerous scorers off the bounce in the college game.

It's an area of Johnson's own game that has been quietly improving as well, and he showed it again versus Detroit, driving to the hoop on a couple of occasions in the second half for layups. Afterward, the charismatic junior utilized an…unconventional analogy to describe his progress.

"I've always been able to drive the ball," Johnson explained. "It was just I was driving down a street and I never turned the corner. I needed to turn the corner to get where I needed to go, and I've been turning the corner. I've been hitting my destination."

Though Taylor is expected to be at 100-percent and ready to roll Friday night, his teammates know Johnson will be there to fill the void whenever called upon. He sees it as his responsibility to understand the team inside and out, and keep things running smoothly.

"With Ty gone, that was my mindset right away," Johnson said, simply. "I'm the point guard and I acted like it."



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