On Monday, Herd That head coach Gay Elmore looked around the court as his team prepared for its final training camp practice at South Charleston Community Center prior to departure for The Basketball Tournament.
His two sons, Jon and Ot, were off to his left. Jon was doing an interview with media members while Ot was getting shots up while speaking with teammates.
As the team’s journey starts with Sunday’s contest against the Peoria All-Stars (2 p.m., ESPN) at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio, the goal is simple: a $1 million, winner-take-all prize.
However, as Gay Elmore looked across the court that evening, he saw the intrinsic prize within the event — a father getting to coach his two boys once again.
“It couldn’t be any sweeter for me as a dad. I’m so proud of the boys,” Gay Elmore said. “I couldn’t be any happier and it is special to be able to coach them both at this level.”
That practice being at South Charleston Community Center is no coincidence.
It is the same gym where Jon Elmore remembers his basketball dreams building while hanging out with Ot and his friends, who were two years older.
“I started playing pickup here in third, fourth, fifth grade,” Jon Elmore said. “Middle school, I played here. High school my first two years, I played here. It’s totally full circle.”
Ot Elmore, who also serves as the team’s general manager, said adding a family aspect to TBT is a unique highlight for all.
“It’s absolutely awesome,” Ot Elmore said. “We grew up together playing with each other. My dad coached AAU for us throughout our years, so it’s special getting to go back and relive that type of deal. It’s not very often you get to play with your brother and for your father, so we take this one time a year and we enjoy it.”
Gay Elmore also used the phrase full circle when speaking on coaching his boys for the TBT.
The elder Elmore also said Ot has played a large hand in Jon’s success from the very start of their time on the court together, setting a standard that Jon worked to reach each day.
“I don’t think it’s any different now than when Ot was 6 and Jon was 4 and we were at the Y playing Biddy Ball,” Gay Elmore said. “I do think it helped Jon a lot to tag along at a younger age with his brother to play with the older boys.”
During the practice, that gamesmanship and brotherly competitiveness shined. After Jon hit a 3-pointer on one end, Ot came back and drove baseline against the Herd That post players before quickly flipping in a layup over the outstretched arms of teammates, which drew praise from his father.
It isn’t often that a family gets to experience basketball’s highest levels, but the Elmores have been blessed in that regard.
Jon and Gay Elmore hold the distinction of being the highest-scoring father-son duo in Division I basketball history with 5,060 points between them, which topped Dell and Steph Curry.
Jon Elmore scored 2,638 points during his Marshall career while Gay Elmore scored 2,422 while at VMI.
Jon and Ot also got to experience NCAA tournament success together, helping Marshall to its first NCAA tournament win in 2018 against Wichita State.
One thing that Jon Elmore thinks makes the trinity of Elmore basketball knowledge special is that they each bring their own flavor to the scheme.
“We don’t always see the same thing, so when you bring in those different aspects and those different viewpoints and bring them together to further and benefit the team, it’s just awesome,” Jon Elmore said.
Along those lines, Gay Elmore said one thing he wanted to do was allow the boys to build their own identity and style of play.
“As far as the boys and their ball, I’ve never pushed them and I think they’ll tell you that,” Gay Elmore said. “I’ve helped any way I could, but they were always self-motivated. They’ve played at the highest level and they’re both great players.”
Ot Elmore pointed out, however, that the base of those varied ideals is a key concept that has remained steadfast for years.
“We’re sort of unique that we don’t change our game plan for anybody,” Ot Elmore said. “We could be playing the Los Angeles Lakers or Playing For Jimmy V. We’re going to get up and down, we’re going to shoot a ton of 3s, we’re going to play fast and we’re going to try to outscore you.”
While the Elmore brothers fixate on their passion for basketball, Gay Elmore pointed out that the Elmore women are just as important to the success of their journey.
Beth Elmore, Gay’s wife and the boys’ mother, has been the rock behind the scenes while sisters Liddy and Abby have been there at each turn — YMCA ball to professional — to cheer on their brothers’ successes.
“I want to give credit to their mom because she puts up with a lot of stuff and she’s the best,” Gay Elmore said. “The two girls, too. They’ve spent countless hours going to games. It’s definitely a family endeavor.
“I don’t know that basketball has brought us closer because we’ve got a really close family anyway. Basketball is just a big part of it. That’s the way it was when I was growing up with my father playing at West Virginia and being a coach.
“I guess we could’ve been in anything else, but our family is just basketball. That’s how it is.”