Depending on the circumstances, walk-ons can have a hard time adjusting to the world of big time college basketball.
But doing so does not sound like it will be a problem for new Jayhawk E.J. Elliott, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound shooting guard from just outside of Dallas, who made his plans to come to Kansas official over the weekend by announcing his decision to walk on via Instagram.
Name a player from the past couple of KU teams and there's a better than 50-50 chance that Elliott has some kind of connection to him.
From playing with Billy Preston at API as a high school junior — and against Josh Jackson the same season — to hanging with Frank Mason III and Devonte' Graham on separate unofficial visits, spending time around Silvio De Sousa at IMG and talking with current Jayhawks Devon Dotson, Sam Cunliffe and others during the past month — including this weekend — Elliott is about as prepared as one can be to make the leap to the highest level of college basketball.
That's not to say the shooting guard who considers himself “a shooter” and lauds his athleticism and pride in playing defense is expecting to come in and storm his way up the depth chart. But he does believe he can hang. And a part of his recent history gives him the confidence to carry that with him to Lawrence.
“I'm just a team-first type of guy, a gritty type of player, whatever it takes for the team to win,” Elliott told the Journal-World by phone on Sunday evening. “To be honest, I kind of feel like I've done this before. When I went to API my junior year, they were the No. 1 team in the country and it was kind of the same thing. No one knew me or thought I was good enough to go play there.”
In addition to playing next to Preston that season, Elliott wound up backing up future NBA guard Terrance Ferguson before returning to his home state of Texas for his senior year, where he finished up at Southlake Carroll High.
Eligibility at Kansas is not an issue for Elliott, who said he was “good to go,” and had already graduated and qualified academically.
Elliott, whose given name is Elijah Jett, said he goes by E.J. because he always liked the way it sounded when people called his grandfather that.
In addition to drawing interest from a dozen other programs, including Wake Forest, Nebraska, UConn and UT-Arlington (his father, Bryan Elliott played there), Elliott said he first informed KU coach Bill Self of his plans to come to Kansas in early April and decided to reveal his plans to the rest of the world over the weekend because the countdown had begun.
“He was the first one from a big, big school who showed any type of interest,” Elliott said of Self. “He'd check up on me. Text me on my birthday. That kind of stuff went a long way.
“I just want to come in and try to earn time and earn a spot and help the team out any way I can,” Elliott added. “Control what you can and see where it falls at the end of the day. One of the things we always talked about. You come to school and even if you don't get minutes, just find a way to help the team any way you can.”
The shooting guard who has business school in his future plans to report to Lawrence on June 1 in time for the start of summer workouts. The way he sees it, that gives him about 600 hours, give or take, to make sure his body is ready for what lies ahead.
“I've gotten to know Sam pretty well and we've talked about summer workouts a little bit,” Elliott said. “Actually, I just talked to him (Sunday afternoon). I've never been through one and he just told me what's going on and how they work.”
So what does he need to do to make sure he's prepared for what Cunliffe and others have warned him about?
“I don't know,” he laughed. “Spend about 40 hours a week in the gym trying to get my body right.”
Now that his commitment to KU is official, Elliott said he planned to connect with KU signee and Texas native Quentin Grimes to get a few workouts in before they both head to Lawrence next month.
“I've been around it and I've played with or against a lot of guys who have been at Kansas, so I'm really looking forward to the opportunity,” Elliott said. “Coach Self gave me a chance and I'm grateful for it. I'm just excited and ready to go to work.”