MCGILL: Elmore Eyes More than Stats, Honors as C-USA Tournament Begins
The Word on the Herd -- March 7, 2018
By Chuck McGill
Jon Elmore has accomplished much in his three-year, 91-game career. The statistics support this, but only tell a portion of the story.
"I think the thing you judge him by is not so much the stats, but it's that he is the motor for a team that is in the top five in scoring and top 10 in efficiency," fourth-year Marshall coach Dan D'Antoni said. "That's his main job. He has kept us in the top 10 nationally."
As Marshall prepares for the Conference USA men's basketball quarterfinals Thursday night in Frisco, Texas, the Thundering Herd hopes to have three more opportunities to play before learning of its postseason tournament fate. That could be three more games for Elmore to add on to his already staggering numbers. The statistics, however, do not matter as much to the junior from Charleston, West Virginia.
"All these records I might break, that's cool, but I want to win," Elmore said. "That's my No. 1 goal. Whether it's scoring, assists, rebounds, etc., all of that factors into winning."
And there is nothing more Elmore wants than winning three games in three days and hoisting the championship trophy on Saturday night. That'd mean Elmore and the Herd would be headed to the NCAA tournament for the first time in three decades.
That would mean far more to him than any award.
Elmore, a 6-foot-3 guard, enters Thursday's game against the winner of the UTSA-UTEP first round game with 706 points and 210 assists this season. He is the fourth player in school history with at least 700 points in a single season, and the fourth player in school history with at least 200 assists in a single season. He is the first, however, to reach those milestones in the same season, just as he was the first MU player to reach 600-plus points and 200-plus assists in consecutive seasons.
If Marshall hangs around for enough games this month, he could be the first player in Conference USA history with 750 points and 250 assists in the same season. That will not retroactively award him the league's Player of the Year honor, which went to Middle Tennessee's Nick King on Wednesday afternoon, but more than 20 of those have been handed out in C-USA history.
Elmore could stand alone in categories where votes don't matter.
"He can be even better with stats and numbers," D'Antoni said.
Marshall has reached unprecedented territory with Elmore entrenched in a starting lineup that lost everyone else after the 2016-17 championship game run. Gone are Stevie Browning, Austin Loop and Ryan Taylor - all to graduation - and Terrence Thompson, who opted to transfer. D'Antoni surrounded Elmore with part-time starter Ajdin Penava, sixth man C.J. Burks, true freshman Jarrod West and career reserve Milan Mijovic.
Elmore and his teammates responded with 21 overall wins, 12 league victories and a takedown of nationally ranked Middle Tennessee in the regular season finale. That is the first time in Marshall men's hoops history any team has ever won 20-plus games, 12 league games and recorded a win over a top 25 team in the same season.
That gives Elmore confidence heading into Thursday night's game. A year ago, Marshall was 12 minutes and 50 seconds from the automatic NCAA tournament berth that accompanies the league tournament title. The Herd trailed top seed Middle Tennessee, 53-51, after a pair of Elmore free throws, and then MT took control.
Since that game, Elmore watched the Herd rebuild while Middle Tennessee went undefeated, 16-0, against C-USA teams not named Marshall. The Herd went 2-0 against the defending champions this season, and could see Round 3 in Friday's semifinals.
"I expected this," Elmore said. "Growing up I always wanted to be the best. I wanted to break every record everywhere, I wanted to win every game, I wanted to have trophies everywhere, winning championships, having the best team. It's always been in my mindset to dominate.
"We've shown what we're capable of doing."