Meet MU’s odd couple, Jon & CJ
They are the oddest of odd couples.
One black, one white.
One muscular, one skinny.
One dynamite off the dribble, one a feared long-range sniper.
They’re both guards, both devoted to the Marshall Thundering Herd men’s basketball program and both West Virginians.
Oh, yeah, and both seniors will be honored during Marshall’s End of Year Awards Reception at 7 p.m. Saturday at the St. Mary’s Conference Center.
I’m referring, of course, to Jon Elmore and C.J. Burks.
Remarkably enough, their success was forged by actually complementing and complimenting each other.
Just ask them.
“Oh, Jon is a great player,” said the 6-foot-4 Burks, a native of Martinsburg, West Virginia. “His ability to shoot the ball definitely spreads the floor a lot. It gives me more room to work.
“Other players focus on us. They focus on me and they focus a lot on him. So, when he has the ball it takes some of the attention off me and, then, when I’m off the ball, likewise. So, with his abilities to shoot, score, pass the ball helps me out a lot.”
The spacing aspect is huge because Burks is such an excellent straight-line driver.
“Yeah, the spacing definitely allows that,” said Burks. “Ball movement and, then, having the proper spacing and, then, having a guy like Jon ... it gives you a lot of room to work. There are a lot of areas and there are little holes in the defense you will find once you keep moving the ball with Jon.”
As for playing with Burks ...
“It makes the game easier,” said the 6-3 Elmore. “Guys can’t help off as much, trying to make plays. They’ve got to put one of their top defenders on him, as well. We usually draw the two toughest defenders on the other team. So, it’s usually a battle every game because nobody wants us to score.
“Playing with him makes the game easier.”
Simply put, Burks dilutes the defense and vice-versa.
“Yeah, that’s why having guys that can knock-down shots and make plays off the ball has been huge for us over the past few years,” said Elmore. “Just because we put so much pressure on a defense that when they collapse or help a little more than usual, there’s where our guys have done a great job of knocking down shots.
“I know C.J. and I have scored a lot of points, but we’ve had a lot of guys excel in their roles beside us.”
The distinctly different strengths make it a very complementary situation.
“I agree,” said Elmore, a Charleston native. “He’s a little more of a straight-line driver and a one-on-one guy. Where I’m more of a just kind of putting pressure on a defense at all times, making game angles type player.
“So, I think we complement each other really well. He penetrates on a straight-line drive and he has found me on a lot of kickouts where I’ve gotten angles off of pick-and-rolls and stuff and I’ve found him on kickouts.
“It’s kind of just reading the game and playing off each other. I think we’ve done a really good job of that. It could have been easy to get selfish or not want each other to succeed, but I think we always have rooted for each other.”
Jon & C.J.
Together, they’ve carved a niche in MU history.
Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.