Marshall Thundering Herd basketball fans waited nervously for two months in anticipation for an announcement from one of the program’s all-time great players regarding his future with the Herd.
Jon Elmore declared for the NBA Draft on March 26 without signing with an agent for the second straight offseason. But unlike the previous time, it felt like a stronger possibility that Elmore would end up staying in the NBA Draft and opting not to remain with Marshall for his senior season after a historic 2017-18 season.
But that doubt among the Herd fanbase was recently silenced with the announcement that Elmore has withdrawn from the NBA Draft and will return to Marshall for his senior season. Elmore returns to a program fresh off the heels of arguably its most successful season in history.
The news comes just days after it was announced that C.J. Burks would also withdraw his name from the NBA Draft and return to Marshall for his senior season as well.
The Herd did lose Ajdin Penava this offseason, but with the highest scoring duo in college basketball from 2017-18 returning along with several other key returnees and new talent, expectations will be high in 2018-19.
Marshall had an unprecedented 2017-18 season in which the team finished 25-11 overall with a C-USA Tournament Championship for the first time in program history and for the first time since 1987, a berth into the NCAA Tournament. The Herd won its first-ever NCAA Tournament game with a Round of 64 upset over Wichita State.
This marked the program’s first-ever appearance in the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament and expectations will continue to rise for Marshall basketball next season, especially with the return of Elmore and Burks. The two now have NBA feedback on top of their already stellar 2017-18 seasons and should be even better in 2018-19.
Burks put up career highs in nearly every category last season, averaging a career-high 20.1 points-per-game, a career-high 4.1 rebounds-per-game, a career-high 3.1 assists-per-game, 47.2 percent shooting from the field, and a career-high 89 percent shooting from the free throw line.
Elmore’s huge 2017-18 season featured a career-high 22.7 points-per-game, a career-high 6.8 assists-per-game, a career-high 5.8 rebounds-per-game, a career-high 44 percent shooting from the field, a career-high 35.6 percent shooting from behind the arc, a career-high 82.6 percent shooting from the free throw line, and a career-high 1.6 steals-per-game.
In addition to career-high numbers in an abundance of statistical categories, Elmore also won C-USA Tournament Most Valuable Player. The returns of Elmore and Burks are huge for the Herd, but the program also returns other key contributors from that 2017-18 team as well as new additions.
Important talent such as Jarrod West, Rondale Watson, Jannson Williams, and Darius George all return next season as well as the new additions of players such as highly-touted and 6-foot-10, 320-pound Iran Bennett, Mikel Beyers, Ante Sustic, Jeremy Dillon, Taevion Kinsey, and Cameron Brooks-Harris.
Marshall will likely be the preseason favorite to win C-USA next season and along with increased expectations, the Herd will face a stout non-conference schedule next season that includes road games at Virginia and at Texas A&M, which were both announced recently.
It’s an exciting time for Marshall basketball and now with the return of Elmore, the bar has been raised to a level it hasn’t been at in many years for a program that has finally turned the corner.