MCGILL: Cline, Duhon Give Take on Elmore the Free Throw Machine
The Word on the Herd -- Jan. 11, 2017
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – The list of Marshall men’s basketball players who have made at least 12 free throws in a single game is a short one. Only four of the 19 players who have accomplished the feat have done so multiple times.
Damier Pitts (123 games from 2008-12) and Skip Henderson (125 games from 1984-88) made a dozen foul shots in a game three times in their Thundering Herd careers. Ronald Blackshear (50 games from 2001-03) and LaVerne Evans (112 games from 1980-84) did it twice.
Jon Elmore, in 17 games this season, has already made 12 free throws in a game five times, including in consecutive games last week. He did it once last year, too, meaning in 41 career games Elmore has made 12-plus free throws in at least twice as many games as any other Marshall player – ever.
“I think he changes speed extremely well,” Mark Cline, a longtime Herd assistant, said of Elmore’s ability to get to the free-throw line. “When he attacks the basket he has the ability to maneuver his body and maneuver the basketball. He plays stronger than people think. He gets knocked down a lot and he’s not afraid to go in there.
Elmore, a 6-foot-3, 189-pound junior from Charleston, West Virginia, has developed into one of the top free throw shooters in Division I basketball. He shoots a lot and he makes a lot. He is 116 for 140 (82.9 percent), trailing only South Dakota State’s Mike Daum in made free throws and Daum and BYU’s Eric Mika in attempts.
The difference is Daum is 6-9 and 245 pounds. Mika is 6-10 and 230 pounds.
“Jon wants to score,” MU assistant coach Chris Duhon said. “Jon wants to try to get to the basket. His job as the point guard is to put as much pressure on the defense by penetrating. Jon is doing what we taught him to do as far as trying to get to the basket and trying to create, but he also has a high IQ.
“Jon is very crafty, and with his size he knows how to use his body to his advantage.”
Elmore made 12 of 13 free throws in last Thursday’s win against Old Dominion. He then made 12 of 15 in last Saturday’s win against Charlotte. He scored 55 points in the two-game homestand, but 24 came from the line. The Conference USA’s leading scorer loves to shoots 3s, but if he has the opportunity to get to the line and shoot with the clock stopped, he is going to take it.
“I’ve always prided myself on attacking the basket,” Elmore said. “I feel I’m a pretty good shooter, but my main game is penetrating and making a play or attacking the bigs or finding the shooters. I’ve found that finding my way to the basket has always been my strong suit. I’ve been getting guys in foul trouble and shooting a lot of free throws.”
Elmore has been more effective in four Conference USA games, shooting 31 for 36 (86.1 percent). He has 11 more free throws than any other player in C-USA in that four-game stretch. In fact, he has more free throws made in conference play than Louisiana Tech’s entire team through Jan. 11.
“I think it’s something I’ve always done from a real young age,” Elmore said. “I think one thing I credit it to is I always played up on my brother’s travel team. I was always the little guy, so I had to find something extra I could do because I was the littlest guy, the youngest guy and the weakest guy on the court.”
It is uncertain how many more games Marshall (11-6, 4-0 Conference USA) will play this season. Including Thursday night’s game at Middle Tennessee (13-3, 3-0 C-USA), the Herd has 14 regular season games remaining, plus the conference tournament and any other postseason games.
Assuming Elmore plays in at least 17 more games, he is on pace to break the single-season free throws and free throws attempted record held by Leo Byrd, both of which were set in 1958-59.
“I think a lot of it has to do with our offense being so open,” Cline said. “I think it’s part of having a scorer’s mentality. The free throw line is not all bad. He’s not afraid of the contact. A lot of scorers are that way.
“When he attacks the basket and it’s 1-on-1, he goes toward the rim and isn’t just trying to get a shot off.”
Elmore has scored in double figures in all 17 games this season, and has seven games with double-digit free throws. Elmore is averaging 21.1 points and 6.5 assists, which ranked 24th and ninth, respectively, among all Division I players.
“This team puts everybody in an advantageous position on the offensive end,” Elmore said. “I try to take whatever they’re giving me.”