Former Kansas combo guard Elijah Johnson has formed a KU alumni team that will be competing in the single-elimination “The Basketball Tournament” this July.
The 10-player Jayhawks squad — which will be revealed a player at a time in coming days on Johnson’s social media accounts (@elijahjohnson15 and @eazyonefive) and at The Basketball Tournament website — will be opening play July 25-28 at Koch Arena in Wichita.
Winner of the eight-team Wichita event (KU, Kansas State, Wichita State alumni teams plus five others) will advance to the finals Aug. 1-6 in Chicago.
“The last thing I did was blow kisses at K-State (after KU win in Manhattan in 2013). We’ll leave it at that,” Johnson said good-naturedly on Monday in hyping a possible game against the KSU alumni team. “I’m excited for it. They have a strong team (including D..J. Johnson, Marcus Foster, Thomas Gipson). I think we have a stronger team.”
Johnson, 28, didn’t wish to reveal any players on the KU team at this time. Last week, Landen Lucas and Sherron Collins both said they were looking forward to playing for the KU squad.
“I’ll give you this hint: We all played for Coach (Bill) Self,” Johnson said.
In fact the KU alumni team has been named Self Made.
“Coach Self gave his blessing. He’s completely fine with it and in fact said he was honored,” Johnson said. “We’ll go with the name Self Made and go down to Wichita and compete.”
This marks the sixth year for the 64-team single-elimination tourney, which is televised by ESPN. It’s the first year KU has entered a team, however individual Jayhawks including Johnson, Tyshawn Taylor and Josh Selby have competed for various squads in the event.
The winning team splits $2 million prize money.
“I felt this would be a great opportunity to give basketball back to the state of Kansas in the summer when it’s pretty dry regarding current stuff and not much going on in general,” Johnson said.
“They (TBT organizers) have been working on transitioning it into an alumni event. It kind of worked out piggybacking off the NCAA Tournament. I played in it three times so they thought I was a good person to reach out to see if KU was interested.
“I reached out to a couple guys. We got up to 18, 19 people on the roster at one period of time. We had to cut to nine, 10 people. I’m comfortable with the number. I think it’s a good number for everybody to play the minutes they want to play.”
Johnson noted that the NBA scouts the games.
“This platform is bigger than trying to win $2 million,” Johnson said. “The last few years, it’s helped people get NBA contracts more than the summer league. It’s also a platform to showcase talent and represent where we come from. Of all the people to represent, who better than Kansas?”
Self Made is looking for a sponsor.
“They will be part of the team,” Johnson said. “This tournament has evolved. KU has a team in it. Kentucky has a team in it. When you go to those levels of popularity, it’s necessary to have sponsorship.”
Johnson and former KU women’s player Natalie Knight-Johnson will again this summer host their “Too Strong Tour” for youths. A camp for boys and girls ages 5-17 will be held June 17-18 at MidAmerica Nazarene in Olathe. Johnson-Knight’s Twitter account is @nataliejo_42.