It’s probably safe to say some Marshall basketball fans didn’t quite know what they were getting when Jon Elmore decided to take his talents to Huntington, West Virginia over four years ago.
But over the course of a historic, record-setting, and program-changing career for the Charleston, West Virginia native, everyone involved with Marshall Thundering Herd basketball knows what kind of legacy Elmore leaves behind after his final game in the green and white Thursday night in the CIT Tournament Championship game.
Elmore transferred to Marshall prior to the 2015-16 season after initially starting his career at VMI, the alma mater of his father, Gay Elmore, who scored 2,422 points in his career with the Keydets. Jon, who grew up admiring the Mike D’Antoni-led Phoenix Suns, looked forward to playing for Dan D’Antoni, brother of Mike D’Antoni.
His first season with the Herd got going a bit rough when he was unable to play in the first several games due to his transfer from VMI. However, once Elmore was able to play, it wouldn’t take long for him to make an immediate impact and help turn around the program.
In Dan D’Antoni’s second season at Marshall, his team finished the 2015-16 season at 17-16 overall and 12-6 in C-USA play, good for a third-place finish in C-USA while also earning a semifinal appearance in the C-USA Tournament. Elmore finished his debut campaign with the Herd by averaging 15.2 points-per-game, 5.8 assists-per-game, and 3.4 rebounds-per-game in 25 games played.
Elmore’s second season with the Herd would be even better, helping lead Marshall to a 20-15 record and C-USA Tournament Championship game appearance, the program’s first 20-win season since 2011-12. Elmore’s individual numbers improved across the board, averaging 19.7 points-per-game, 5.9 assists-per-game, and 4.3 rebounds-per-game while earning first-team all-conference honors.
In addition, Elmore led C-USA in scoring and assists during the 2016-17 season. The momentum was growing, but it would reach its apex for Marshall basketball during the 2017-18 season. Following an offseason in which he tested the waters of the NBA Draft and worked on his craft with NBA scouts, Elmore would lead the Herd to the breakthrough season the program had been seeking for over 30 years.
For the first time since 1987, Marshall earned a bid into the NCAA Tournament by winning the C-USA Tournament Championship for the first time in program history. Elmore was named C-USA Tournament MVP and his legacy would be further established when he led the Herd to its first-ever NCAA Tournament win over fourth-seeded Wichita State in the Round of 64.
Marshall finished the 2017-18 season at 25-11 overall with that C-USA Tournament Championship and highly sought-after NCAA Tournament win, but Elmore particularly impressed. He put up career highs in nearly every statistical category, averaging 22.7 points-per-game, 6.8 assists-per-game, and 5.8 rebounds-per-game while leading C-USA in scoring and assists for the second straight year.
Elmore also earned all-conference first-team honors for the second straight season. The bar had officially been raised for Elmore and the entire Marshall program heading into the 2018-19 season. After once again testing the NBA Draft waters and working out for scouts, Elmore returned to Marshall for his final season looking to go out on top.
The Herd was a bit up and down during the 2018-19 season, but despite losing in the quarterfinals of the C-USA Tournament, Marshall accepted an invitation to play in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament mainly to help Elmore reach another program plateau. Not only did Elmore reach that plateau, but he helped lead the Herd to the CIT Tournament Championship.
This was Marshall’s first postseason tournament championship since 1947 while the Herd also clinched its third straight season of 20-plus wins by finishing the 2018-19 season at 23-14 overall. Elmore, in particular, had another stellar season by averaging 20.2 points-per-game, 5.1 assists-per-game, and 5.1 rebounds-per-game while earning first-team all-conference honors for the third straight year.
To say Elmore broke records during his career with Marshall would be an understatement. Not only did he break several all-time Marshall records, but he also helped rewrite C-USA record books and even the NCAA record books in certain aspects. Looking at it in terms of just Marshall records, Elmore broke many throughout the 2018-19 season.
In the first round of the CIT, Elmore officially became Marshall’s all-time leading scorer, a record that was previously held since 1987. Elmore finished his career with 2,638 points, good for an average of 19.8 points-per-game over the course of his entire career. Not only did he leave his mark in the scoring department, but he also did so in the facilitating aspect as well.
Elmore broke the Marshall program record for the most assists with 783 career assists, good for an average of 5.9 assists-per-game for his career. Known as a deadly 3-point shooter, Elmore naturally broke the Marshall program record for most made 3-point field goals by connecting on 356 career 3-pointers. His versatility as a player also saw him make a good living at the free throw line.
In fact, Elmore broke the program record for the most made free throws with 686 made free throws, connecting on 80.8 percent of his free throws throughout his career. Elmore’s mark left on the C-USA record books is quite staggering in its own right. He broke the C-USA all-time record for scoring, assists, and made 3-point field goals.
He also became the first player in C-USA history to make first-team all-conference three seasons in a row. Elmore is also the only Division-I college basketball player to lead a conference in career scoring and assists. The impact he had wasn’t just reserved for Marshall and C-USA, however.
Elmore became the first player in Divison-I men’s basketball history with 2,500 career points and 750 career assists. Jon, along with father Gay, also became the highest-scoring father/son duo in Division-I men’s college basketball history by passing Dell and Stephen Curry during the Herd’s CIT semifinal win.
During Elmore’s career, Marshall won a total of 85 games, 45 C-USA regular season games, two C-USA Tournament Championship game appearances, one C-USA Tournament Championship, one NCAA Tournament appearance, one NCAA Tournament win, and a CIT Tournament Championship. Many players played a key role in the Herd’s success, but Elmore was the catalyst for the success.
He helped rewrite record books and was a model of consistency on and off of the court, but his greatest legacy at Marshall might be turning around a program and helping the program reach a level of success it had never reached before.
The argument can be made that as far as an overall body of work with everything taken into consideration, Elmore is the greatest player in Marshall basketball history in terms of what he did while at Marshall. The records and personal accomplishments are there, but what separates Elmore from every other past Marshall great is he led a team to an NCAA Tournament win.
He led the Herd to team accomplishments the program hadn’t seen in a very long time. Regardless if you believe he is the greatest of all-time for Marshall or not, his legacy is undeniable and he helped put Herd basketball back on the map.
Jonny Buckets changed the game in Huntington and raised the bar to a level it had never been at before, and Marshall fans should feel thankful for everything he did for the basketball program and university as a whole.