It was 2015, and Jon Elmore was in between college programs. The former West Virginia high school player of the year started out his college career at the Virginia Military Institute. But after dropping out to take care of his ailing grandfather, Elmore enrolled on his own dime at Marshall University.
For most of the year, Elmore couldn't suit up with the Thundering Herd due to transfer restrictions. To get his competitive fix, Elmore played intramurals. There was a Boban-Marjanovic-sized talent disparity between Elmore and the rest of the players in the league. He scored 101 points in one of the games.
"It's true," Elmore said. "I’m not going to lie, we weren’t playing the best team in the intramural league. The game might have gotten out of hand a little bit. I got a little hot. Probably could’ve thrown a hook shot in from half court at the time. It was fun. I got to make some friends."
In December 2015, Elmore finally got to face some real competition. He played his first game under head coach Dan D'Antoni at Marshall, which marked the beginning of a productive partnership between one of college basketball's sharpest minds and most talented offensive players. Elmore has averaged 19.7 points and 6.2 assists in three seasons at Marshall.
On Tuesday, he was one of six players the Nuggets hosted at Pepsi Center for their second batch of pre-draft workouts. Iowa's Tyler Cook, Wisconsin's Ethan Happ, Auburn's Mustapha Heron, Michigan's Charles Matthews and St. John's Shamorie Ponds rounded out the group.
"It was a lot of positive stuff," Elmore said. "They were happy with the way I came out and competed. I was happy with it."
Elmore has until May 30 to decide if he wants to withdraw his name from the draft and return to Marshall for his senior season. He's considered a long shot to go in the first two rounds. If Elmore decides to return to school, he'll have the opportunity to make the Conference-USA First Team for the third consecutive year and help Marshall go even farther in the NCAA tournament.
The Thundering Herd reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1987 last season. Elmore scored 27 points in their Round of 64 upset of Wichita State. He drained four three-point attempts in that game, which was only 29 off his career high (if you're including intramural games).
"I didn’t step inside the perimeter too much," said Elmore, thinking back to his 101-point game. "I keep telling them they need to put a sign on the court I did it on."
Cook dishes on Tatum
Tyler Cook is a bruising 6-foot-9 center who threw down 60 dunks as a sophomore at Iowa. Before that, he was dominating high school competition alongside Jayson Tatum at Chaminade in St. Louis. They won a Missouri 5A state championship together as seniors. Cook has known the Celtics star rookie since middle school.
"I can’t say that I knew he’d be scoring 23 points a night in the playoffs, but I definitely knew he’d be a star in this league for sure," Cook said. "I’ve known him since seventh or eighth grade. That was around the time I started taking basketball seriously. Seeing him being in the gym at 5:30 a.m. every morning before school, that kind of taught me that’s the way you have to work to be good at what you do. The fact that he’s been putting in that kind of work before high school, there’s a reason why he’s at where he’s at right now."
Matthews, Harris reconnect
Charles Matthews spent some time catching up with Nuggets shooting guard Gary Harris after his workout. The 6-foot-6 wing, who was a key piece on the Michigan Wolverines team that advanced to the NCAA national championship game in April, has known Harris since his high school days. They developed a relationship while Tom Izzo tried to convince Matthews to come to Michigan State, the school Harris spent two years at.
"I was going there, and then big bad Cal (John Calipari) came in the picture," Matthews said. "It’s hard to say no to Kentucky, and he understood that."
Matthews spent a year at Kentucky before he decided to transfer to Michigan. He averaged 13.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists in his first season as a Wolverine.