- Jeff Goodman, ESPN Insider
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Nearly a year after leaving VMI to tend for their ailing grandfather, Jon and Ot Elmore still haven't received their release from the military institution.
The Elmore brothers, who never played a game for VMI, told ESPN that they returned home to Charleston, West Virginia, and took turns sleeping on a couch to tend to their grandfather, Otmer Elmore -- who died months later from cancer.
"He basically raised us," said Ot Elmore, who was named after his grandfather.
Ot Elmore was a redshirt freshman who sat out his first season at VMI in order to be able to play all four years with his younger brother, Jon, who left school in October of 2014 -- a little more than a month after the fall semester began.
"My grandfather was sick," Jon Elmore said.
Jon and Ot Elmore asked for a release from the school, but the VMI administration did not comply. They were both denied a waiver from the school and Jon Elmore also lost an appeal with the National Letter of Intent Committee in order to try and gain back the year of eligibility he lost last year.
Jon Elmore wound up enrolling at Marshall in nearby Huntington, West Virginia, paying his own way and practicing with the team in the second semester. Ot Elmore wound up choosing to go to Texas Rio Grande Valley -- where he also paid his own way the second semester, and like his brother, will have to do the same for the first semester of the 2015-16 year.
VMI's head coach at the time, Duggar Baucom, chose to leave after this past season to become the head coach at the Citadel.
"As you know, both Elmore brothers were here and chose to leave VMI prior to last season," VMI athletic director Dave Diles said via a statement to ESPN. "They sought their release through the various avenues in the NCAA and NLI rules, and it was not granted. The various appeals also were not granted. We appreciate the history the family has as it pertains to VMI, and we continue to wish the Elmore family well as all parties move forward."
Diles declined to comment further on the matter to ESPN.
Gay Elmore, the father of both Jon and Ot, was a star for the Keydets in the mid to late 1980s. He was the school's all-time leading scorer until the mark was broken by Reggie Williams in 2008.
Tim DiPiero, a family friend and lawyer who is helping the Elmores, told ESPN that he was under the impression -- after several discussions with Diles -- that an agreement would be reached in which the family would pay $50,000 to compensate for last year in return for the releases of both players. DiPiero told ESPN that weeks later VMI insisted it would grant the releases only if "made whole" and the figure then escalated to approximately $110,000.
"The family was willing to come up with $50,000," DiPiero said. "However, they could not afford $110,000."
If the school does not release the players, both will have just two years of college basketball eligibility remaining.
"I've known these kids since they were little and they have always dreamed of playing college basketball," DiPiero said. "It's a shame they are going to lose a year because once they heard their grandfather was terminally ill, they decided to go home and take care of their him."