C-USA has its fair share of great players, but the Marshall Thundering Herd boasts two of the absolute best the league has to offer in junior guards Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks, who have helped lead Marshall to a 19-8 overall record and 10-4 mark in C-USA play so far this season.
The guard tandem has been nothing short of outstanding for the Herd this season and both have carved out all-conference first-team caliber seasons, but there’s another award that both players could be in the position to win come season’s end.
Elmore and Burks make up quite possibly the best guard tandem in the country, but both are also legitimate C-USA Player of the Year contenders if the numbers are broken down. And with four regular-season games remaining, they could greatly improve their odds by leading Marshall to a potential first-round bye in the C-USA Tournament.
The Herd also has another first-team all-conference contender in Ajdin Penava, but Elmore and Burks have arguably had more impressive seasons despite Penava’s tremendous season. Both players have been key contributors to Marshall’s basketball program for three years, but are having career-best numbers this season.
Elmore has already surpassed 1,500 career points in his Marshall career, but has had a career season in 2017-18 in a number of areas. He is currently averaging a career-high 22 points-per-game, a career-high seven assists-per-game, and a career-high 6.1 rebounds-per-game. Elmore is the only player in Division-I averaging at least 22 points, seven assists, and six rebounds-per-game.
As he did last season, Elmore currently leads the league in scoring and assists. In addition, Elmore’s field goal percentage is at a career-high so far this season at 43 percent and he’s shooting a career-high 82.4 percent from the free throw line while also averaging a career-high 1.6 steals-per-game.
His 3-point field goal percentage is down from 35.2 percent last season to 31.7 percent this season, but since the first 21 games where his 3-point field goal percentage was at 27.1 percent, he has improved it by over four percent. Elmore also leads the country in triple doubles with two on the season.
Leading the league in scoring and assists usually lends itself to being in firm contention for a player of the year honor. But given how much Elmore means to a Marshall team that he logs 38.2 minutes-per-game for, his odds become even greater.
As great as Elmore has been for nearly three years, Burks has been very good in his own right. His first two years were solid as one of C-USA’s best sixth men, but now as a starter, Burks has blossomed into one of the best players in C-USA.
Burks, who has surpassed 1,000 career points in his Marshall career, is putting up career numbers in almost every statistical category, including a career-high 21.4 points-per-game which is good for third in C-USA. He is also averaging a career-high four rebounds-per-game and a career-high three assists-per-game.
The junior guard is also shooting a career-high 50 percent from the field, a career-high 39.7 percent from 3-point territory, and a career-high 86.1 percent from the free throw line. Burks is not only scoring nearly as good as anybody in C-USA, but he is doing it at an efficient level.
Simply put, there seems to be a great chance that the C-USA Player of the Year award for the 2017-18 season could reside from a player in Huntington, West Virginia. There are other great players in the league that are firm contenders as well, but Elmore and Burks have 2017-18 seasons as impressive as anybody in C-USA so far.
The final four regular-season games could be a big determining factor as to who wins the award, but expect Elmore and Burks to keep getting better in their quest to lead the Herd to a top-four seed in the C-USA Tournament and become the program’s first-ever C-USA Player of the Year.