Self looking for improved play

When No. 7 ranked Kansas plays host to Emporia State on Tuesday night, Bill Self hopes to see his squad take the next step forward as a team. With the season opener against Longwood looming, Self knows exactly how important it will be for the Jayhawks to start becoming a complete team. What, if anything, will KU's head coach specifically be looking for against the Hornets? Jayhawk Slant has the latest from Lawrence.
"I'd like to see our post defense improve, and I would really like to see us shoot it better - but to me, that's something that is uncontrollable at times, as long as you get good shots," said Self on Monday afternoon. "I would like to see us be more aggressive on all fronts; I don't think we were as aggressive as we should have been in the first game.
"In all honesty, we didn't play great the first game, but I wasn't the least bit discouraged by that, I thought we did some good things and moved the ball well - hopefully our execution will be a little better."
A little more than a week ago, Kansas opened up exhibition play by defeating Washburn, 92-62. Three players, Marcus Morris (28), Markieff Morris (12) and Tyshawn Taylor (12) scored in double-figures for the Jayhawks. In all, 10 players scored at least two points against the Ichabods, who scored just 27 first half points.
Against Washburn, Kansas won the battle on the boards, but did so by a slim margin, 35-27. The Jayhawks dished out 21 dimes and had an amazing 16 steals, but also turned the ball over 12 times.
Self's squad limited the Ichabods to just 43.5 percent shooting from the field in the first half, but that number grew to 56.5 percent after intermission.
Offensively, Kansas connected on 56.5 percent of its shots from the field in the first half, but following halftime, that number dipped to just 40.5 percent. While the Jayhawks connected on 32-of-35 free throws, Self's squad was just 4-of-19 from behind the arc against Washburn.
"I think our guys can make shots," said Self. "There's nobody on our team that we say `Don't shoot.' That's never the case. There are some guys that do things better than others, and Tyrel Reed more so than Brady Morningstar is our designated three-point shooter.
"He is the one guy in our program that regardless of time and score, if he's open then he should shoot it," he added. "Other guys may need to think about time, score and momentum a little bit."
One player that has the talent and ability to play a significant role this season, and beyond, is sophomore Elijah Johnson. On the court, there isn't anything the 6-foot-4, 195-pound combo guard from Las Vegas, Nev., can't accomplish.
Johnson, who is clearly one of the most athletic players on the team, can score from any location on the court and has been known to thrown down some "nasty" dunks in transition.
However, according to Self, one thing in particular is holding back Johnson.
For Johnson, the pressure to perform is at an all-time high. With Josh Selby out, he's been given the opportunity to prove to the coaching staff that he is more than capable to fill the void Selby, the No. 1 ranked player in the 2010 class, was expected to fill from the moment he stepped foot on campus.
Johnson has been given the opportunity to prove to the coaching staff that he's "the man" for the job and a player Self and his staff can count on when times get tough.
"Maybe a little bit more (getting more reps with the first team); Elijah had a very good day in practice yesterday," said Self. "The thing that concerns me about Elijah is that he is so careless with the ball, either we need to get him off the ball, or he needs to take better care of it. He's not a point guard, he's a combo guard, which is good, but I really wish there would be somebody who is more of a consistent ball-handler.
"Right now we have too many guys that think they need to be the one who makes the play, as opposed to just being a ball mover," he added. "When he understands that and picks his spots better he will become a much better half-court player. Right now he is playing well, but he is just careless with the ball, and I think you can say that about our entire roster."