The ringleader of the Marshall men’s basketball team’s run to the NCAA tournament’s second round is coming back for one more year.
Marshall announced Monday evening that point guard Jon Elmore, the MVP of the 2018 Conference USA title game, would come back for his senior season. Elmore had entered his name into NBA draft consideration but did not hire an agent, allowing for him to return to the roster if he desired.
The deadline to make that decision is Wednesday. This is the second straight season Elmore entered his named into the draft and pulled back to return to school.
“I’m excited to be able to put on the Marshall uniform for one more go around,” Elmore said in a university release. “Marshall is my home and I’m looking forward to going out with a bang. We have shown glimpses of what we are capable of throughout my first three years here. However, the bar is higher than ever now and I’m excited for the challenge.”
Elmore was a main reason the Thundering Herd was able to set that bar. He is the first player in C-USA history to lead the conference in both points and assists in consecutive seasons. In 2017-18, Elmore paced the league with 22.7 points and 6.8 assists. He is the second-leading returning scorer and top returning assist man in college basketball. He also was fourth in C-USA with 2.7 3-pointers made per game and 10th in shooting at 43.9 percent from the floor.
The former South Charleston and George Washington star broke the school single-season records for points (816), assists (244), free throws (232) and free throw attempts (281). During the 2017-18 season, Elmore led the team in 3-pointers (98), 3-point field goal attempts (275) and field goals (554). He also led the nation with two triple-doubles.
He’s also climbing up the career charts as well. Through 96 career games, Elmore is fourth on the scoring list at 1,888 points, third in made 3-pointers with 242, third in assists with 592 and second in made free throws with 518.
Elmore’s return means that two of the three Herd players who declared early for the draft decided to return to school. Guard C.J. Burks, who was third in C-USA in scoring last season at 20.1 points per game, announced last week he would return. Forward Ajdin Penava, the 2018 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year who led the nation in blocked shots, decided to move to California and train for a professional career.
The news should make Marshall one of the top contenders for the conference crown in 2018-19. The Herd returns 77 percent of its scoring and 87 percent of its 3-pointers from last season.
Penava may be gone, but Marshall will have the services of Iran Bennett, a bulldozer of a post player who spent this past season as an academic non-qualifier.
Marshall went 25-11 last season, the second straight campaign with at least 20 wins, and won its first C-USA tournament title. That guaranteed Marshall’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 1987. The Herd upset Wichita State in the first round – Elmore scored a team-best 27 points in that game – and fell to West Virginia in the second round.