Self defends Elijah Johnson

By Rustin Dodd

Kansas coach Bill Self is standing behind senior point guard Elijah Johnson.

Despite a rash of turnovers and sloppy performances from Johnson over the last month, Self said Monday during the Big 12 teleconference that he didn’t foresee any major changes in minutes or playing time in the guard rotation,

“Elijah’s my guy,” Self said. “He’s my guy, and we have the best chance to win with Elijah in the game. And he’s learning how to play a position, and he’s thinking too much instead of playing.

“But that is the horse that we are gonna ride. And I believe that will be the best for our team.”

Self’s statement of support comes two days after Johnson finished with four turnovers while shooting three of 14 from the field in an 85-80 loss against Oklahoma State, a defeat that snapped KU’s 18-game winning streak and 33-game run at Allen Fieldhouse.

“We don’t have a point guard,” Self said after the loss, bluntly addressing his team’s guard play.

In his first season as Kansas’ lead guard, Johnson is averaging 9.3 points while shooting 38.5 percent from the field and 33 percent from the three-point line. But he’s also struggled to become a consistent facilitator for a KU offense that struggled to score points for most of January.

And turnovers have been costly. Johnson has recorded 19 turnovers against 19 assists in KU’s last five games. While Self says the guard play must improve, he’s not ready to give up on Johnson.

“We are 19-2,” Self said, “and the players that have been playing the majority of the minutes have performed at a reasonably high-level … we’ve had some guys play unbelievably well in some situations, and some guys maybe haven’t.

“But we’ve found a way to kind of piece it together. And we haven’t got consistent guard play. We’ve got to do a better job of helping Naadir (Tharpe) and Elijah.”