MCGILL: Burks, Elmore Flirt With Herd Hoops History
The Word on the Herd -- Jan. 25, 2018
By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – It was six decades ago, when Dan D’Antoni was a youngster growing up on Moran Avenue in Mullens, the last time two 20-point scorers shared the court at Marshall.
In 1955-56, Charlie Slack led the way with 22.6 points per game, but formed a one-two punch with Cebe Price, who averaged 21.2 points.
Two years later, Leo Byrd (24.9 points per game) and Hal Greer (23.6) combined to form the most formidable scoring tandem in program history.
Sixty years have passed, but through 20 games this season, Herd junior guards Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks are flirting with history. Elmore has scored 441 points, an average of 22.1 per game. Burks has 406 points, an average of 21.4 per game. They are such prolific scorers that Elmore leads Conference USA in points per game overall this season. The leader when counting only C-USA games: Burks.
“We don’t care at all who scores,” Burks said. “We both know we will get shots, so every day we push each other to become a better player every day. Everybody scores in our offense.”
Elmore agrees with Burks’ take, and the numbers back up him. The Charleston native led Marshall in scoring in seven of the first eight games of the season. In the last 12 games, Elmore has led the team in scoring three times.
Meanwhile, Burks has shouldered the scoring load as of late. He has led the Herd in scoring in four consecutive games with 32, 24, 25 and 24 points in that stretch. He is 17 of 31 (54.8 percent) from 3-point range in the last four games, and is a perfect 18 for 18 from the free throw line over the same span.
“I’ve stepped it up and I’ve been more locked in,” Burks said. “It starts off with ball movement; Jon does a great job of getting our offense in the flow that it needs. When our offense is flowing like that and the floor is spaced and everybody does what they’re supposed to do, easy shots just come.”
Elmore has been no slouch in scoring in conference play. He has 55 consecutive games scoring in double figures, and dropped 32 points on Louisiana Tech on Dec. 30. But he is equal parts scorer and creator in D’Antoni’s offense, as shown by his 14-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist performance against UAB last Saturday. It was the sixth triple-double in program history and Elmore’s second this season. It was an impressive stat line, and his final two assists sealed the game for the Herd in overtime.
“I want to win and we’re winning a lot this year,” Elmore said. “Whatever it takes to win: scoring, assists, rebounds, steals, diving on a loose ball, taking a charge. Whatever I can do to make my teammates better and come out with a win is what matters.”
Elmore’s production has been as expected. From last season to this season, Elmore has improved upon his field goal percentage, free throw percentage, rebounding and scoring, steady improvements from one of the league’s best players. Burks’ statistical improvement, however, has been drastic as he moved into a more prominent role in the wake of the departures of Stevie Browning and Austin Loop. He started five games during his freshmen and sophomore seasons, but has started all 19 games in which he has participated this season. His scoring has jumped from 9.8 points per game last season to 21.4 this season, and his field goal percentage, 3-point percentage, free throw percentage, rebounding, assists per game and steals per game have all improved.
“He’s fearless,” Elmore said of Burks. “It’s nonstop aggressiveness. He’s always attacking the rim and always looking to score. He stays confident no matter what. He can miss five shots in a row and he still thinks he’s going to make the next five. That’s the mindset you have to have.”
Slack and Price headlined a Mid-American Conference champion team that played in the NCAA Midwest Regional. Byrd and Greer had two of the top 15 scoring seasons – on per game averages – in program history in the same season.
Now, if their averages hold, Burks and Elmore can etch their names alongside some of the greatest to ever play at Marshall.
“It’s fun to play with C.J.,” Elmore said. “We’re similar players because we both drive to the basket a lot and in the fact that we draw a lot of contact going to the hole; we both finish well. Lately, he’s been shooting it really well, so it’s cool to see the growth. It’s definitely exciting what we're doing.”