By Chuck McGill
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – First came the dribble, then came the dream.
Jon Elmore, the Marshall University basketball star who one day hopes to go from Charleston to Huntington to the National Basketball Association, feels he is closer than ever to realizing his goal. But, the 6-foot-3 guard, who entered his name in the NBA Draft on March 27, will wait at least one more year before making the leap from college hoops to the pros.
Elmore, who traveled back to West Virginia on Wednesday after working out in California, withdrew his name from the NBA Draft before he departed the West Coast to head home.
“Since I was a little kid, as long as I can remember, my goal has been to get to the NBA,” Elmore said. “Basketball is what I’m passionate about, so it’s always been a dream.
“From a young age I always thought if I worked hard I’d have that chance. As I grow older and grow a little closer to it, I’m realizing I have a legitimate shot if I keep working and keep progressing. That’s my goal, and I’m not satisfied.”
Elmore was one of college basketball’s most productive players during the 2016-17 season, which culminated with Marshall’s run to the Conference USA tournament championship game. Elmore was a Conference USA first team selection and all-tournament team member while averaging 19.7 points and 5.9 assists per game. He led C-USA in both categories, and became the first player in MU history to eclipse 600 points and 200 assists in the same season.
“It was great that he put his name out there,” MU coach Dan D’Antoni said. “I think he’s an NBA type of player. Certainly just getting his name out and getting people talking about him a little bit and knowing who he is a little bit is a good thing.
“If he’d had gone first round, it would have been a good thing, too. There was nothing bad about it. If he goes in the first round, it helps us recruit. If he comes back, we’re a better team. Certainly him coming back, it makes my nights better. I’ll sleep better.”
D’Antoni, who spent nine seasons in the NBA as an assistant coach, said Elmore draws comparisons to one of his former professional players: Steve Nash.
“He does a lot of things that Steve did and the scouts will keep an eye on him,” D’Antoni said.
After 60 career games, Elmore already ranks on the program’s all-time list for points (No. 44), 3-pointers (No. 12), 3-pointers attempted (No. 11), assists (No. 11) and steals (No. 49). He passed his head coach on the all-time points list and joined Mike D’Antoni as one of three players – Cornelius Jackson is the other – with 200 assists in a season.
Elmore’s other 2016-17 statistics alongside single-season ranks: 691 points (No. 6), 210 field goals (No. 22), 508 shots attempted (No. 8), 83 3-pointers (No. 9), 236 3-pointers attempted (No. 5), 188 free throws (No. 2), 233 free throws attempted (No. 3) and 40 steals (tied for No. 24).
He said the NBA Draft early entry process gave him valuable information on how to improve his all-around game, while reinforcing the positive parts of his play.
“I heard from a few teams – I’d say five to seven,” Elmore said. “We had some really good talks and I received some good feedback. I’m glad I did it.
“Now, there’s no substitute for the work I’ve got to put in to realize that dream. I’m working harder than ever. It makes you hungrier than ever because you see yourself having a shot.”