TrojanSports - USC two-sport prospect Drake London has bright future, big decision ahead
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USC two-sport prospect Drake London has bright future, big decision ahead

USC freshman Drake London will look to make his mark in both football and basketball for the Trojans.
USC freshman Drake London will look to make his mark in both football and basketball for the Trojans.

Dwan London learned early on how to motivate his son in his athletic pursuits, and more importantly how he'd respond to any challenges lobbed his way.

Actually, it didn't take much to ignite that competitive flame within Drake London before football or basketball games over the years, and hearing the stories helps crystallize how he became a true dual-sport college recruit.

The motivating ploys started very early in his development and evolved over time as needed.

"He was the kid that would [say], 'Dad, can we go run routes? Can we go shoot? Can we go do this? Can we go do that?'" his mother Cindi London recalls. "… He'd always have Dwan training him and by his own asking. Dwan would be like, 'Well, I don't think you're going to be able to get this,' and he would kind of trick him and [Drake] would say, 'Oh no, I can do it.'"

When London was playing football in the third grade and wanted new gloves, his father told him he had to earn them.

"It started, 'Once you get six touchdowns, we'll go buy gloves.' I'm thinking game 4, game 5. He turns in three touchdowns the first game so I had to increase it to 10, and he knocked it out in three games. He got his gloves in three games. He was serious," Dwan says as the family shares a laugh in their home back at the end of May.

On his way to eventually turning himself into a coveted 4-star wide receiver and 4-star shooting guard at Moorpark High School, the now USC dual-sport freshman would continue to feed off his father's prompts.

It was like flipping a switch for the otherwise laid-back, soft-spoken London.

"He plays like a dog, man. We've always had him ramped up in some way, shape or form," Dwan adds, enjoying retelling the stories. "Like I would come out of the restroom and I'd say, 'Hey, I was in the bathroom. Some of the kids from the other team were in there and they said that you don't know how to play football.' And he'd ask me what number were they? …

"His face would instantly change. He'd go walk out there for coin flip and all the other kids were shaking hands, they're happy and he's serious. … I would get him all the time with that same one: 'Oh, they said you don't know how to play basketball.' And he would go out there and just dominate."

So much so that London had college programs from both coasts willing to give him the uncommon opportunity of playing both football and basketball in college.

And when others would express doubts or questions about whether he could actually pull that off, well, that only drove him further, of course.

"I learned a long time ago with him, if he says he's going to do something you just watch and see what happens because more times than not he proves you wrong," Moorpark football coach Ryan Huisenga says.

Tony Bennett, who just led Virginia's basketball team to the national championship, was the first to get that ball rolling in the winter of 2018, expressing his interest and immediately going to work to the get the UVA football program on board as well.

USC and other schools would follow suit with the dual offers, and the Trojans narrowly edged out the Cavaliers in London's recruitment as football coach Clay Helton and basketball coach Andy Enfield worked together to assure the family that both were indeed supportive of the plan.

By his senior season, his commitment was in place, his future set. But that raises the question -- what continued to drive London to yet another level this last year once he earned all of that respect as a highly-ranked national recruit in both of his sports?

"Because I'm not No. 1. That's it," he says matter-of-factly.

Freshman Drake London is a rare true two-sport recruit who could make a major impact for USC in football and basketball.
Freshman Drake London is a rare true two-sport recruit who could make a major impact for USC in football and basketball. (Courtesy of the London family)

'I don't know what I could be'

It took all of two days into fall camp this month for London -- along with fellow freshman wide receiver Munir McClain -- to earn special mention from Helton in his post-practice media session. They'd come up again the next time as well, and on Tuesday offensive coordinator Graham Harrell took his turn praising the pair of newcomers.

"Coming into that [WR] room, that's a tough room to enter just because you've got some dominant personalities in there and you've just got some great competitors. So to step into that room, to be honest with you, you're either going to kind of turn into a dude or you're going to be out of there," Harrell said. "... Those two guys have done a great job stepping in, making plays and just adapting to the room and adapting to the culture of that room."

There was never any doubt London would take well to such a challenge -- it's the very thing he's responded to best all these years.

The greater unknown was and remains how he'll handle the even greater challenge of competing at a high level in two demanding Division I sports whose seasons overlap.

His parents considered that question plenty once that plan came into focus -- because it wasn't the initial plan.

"The plan was we were going to decide what he was going to do his senior year and we were really going to get focused on the transition. That was the plan," Dwan says. "And I think in Drake's mind he had other thoughts, and that's totally acceptable -- I love that about my children, they have their own minds. … The first and initial thought when he said 'I want to do both' is I just wanted to sit on it for a while because my mindset is it's NCAA Division I -- for some kids just doing one is tough.

"I'm seriously beating myself up over it, should I just make him focus, am I going to let him stress himself out? I'm thinking, he's young, he doesn't know all the things about how rigorous this is going to be. So I'm driving to work, debating on it, debating on it, thinking on it, and then I think, 'OK, let's map it out, let's see.' … His body is already used to running at this capacity. So who are we to interrupt his dreams, his aspirations?"

London says the dual-sport pursuit became realistic when Bennett came to Moorpark HS to get a look at him in that winter of 2018 and took it upon himself to send his highlights over to the UVA football staff and get that side involved as well.

"When schools started bringing interest, I never really thought of it like that, but when I found out you could do that, it was kind of like, why not?" London says.

The USC football and basketball staffs had already both been recruiting him independently -- the football staff would offer first -- and soon got on the same page, as did Notre Dame, UCLA and others.

But not everybody was a believer.

Many seemed to have an opinion on what London should -- or shouldn't -- do, according to his family. They heard it from others in the Moorpark community and especially from some college recruiters.

"A lot of people doubted him. There were some coaches in the recruiting process telling us, 'That's not really going to happen. You know they're just telling you that,'" Cindi London recalls. "Or just saying, 'Oh, doesn't he just want to just play this?' How hard it's going to be. 'It's going to be almost impossible.'"

Moorpark basketball coach Ryan Moore, who took over the program leading into London's senior season, admits he had some of those same concerns until he realized both how truly talented London was in each sport and also how serious his family had become about supporting this pursuit.

"When I heard everything from the outside, before I really knew him and his family and I was just getting acquainted with Moorpark, I thought he was nuts," Moore says. "I had a couple conversations with Cindi and Dwan -- they're unbelievable people. His recruiting train was already rolling. … That's when they were very adament that he was going to play both, and if coaches called I was to let them know he wanted to play both."

That message prompted a terse response from at least one college recruiter, he recalls.

"There was one high major coach, assistant coach, in the Pac-12 [who] cussed me out when I said, 'OK, that's great you're offering him for basketball, but until you get a football offer he's not seriously considering you,'" Moore recalls. "That assistant coach didn't have a lot of nice things to say to me, but the more I got to know Drake the more I got to understand that it wasn't just another kid saying, 'Yeah, I'm kind of good at both.'

"In my day job [with Impact Basketball], I work with pros everyday and there's a reason he was a top recruit at his position in football and basketball in his class. If he were to commit to basketball, he would have a lot of opportunity to continue to advance his career."

That was precisely the dilemma, the reason the plan changed over the last year and a half.

As London explains, he realized he needed a little more time to choose between his passions -- because he has his own questions still to answer.

"I haven't gone full-fledged in anything yet. You know how these kids are out here training every day, lifting every day, dribbling, shooting every day? I haven't done that. Honestly, I've only had a whole month to prepare for my [basketball] seasons, not even that," he says. "… If I have six months to get ready and I'm shooting every day, dribbling every day, jumping every day, I don't know what I could be."

The same goes for football to a degree.

"He's really been halftime and halftime in both," Cindi says. "… For like rankings and stuff, you can't really put him in one or the other bucket. For basketball they're like, 'Oh, he's the football player.' For football they're like, 'He's a basketball player.' No, he's both. He's never ever ever put full energy into one full-time.”

"I don't think people understand that as well. I haven't put my full foot down yet," London adds. "I think there's still a lot - a lot, a lot -- [for me to show]."

(Continued below)

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'It felt like what I always dreamed of'

While not every school was as encouraging on the logistics of pulling it off, the staffs at USC and Virginia had no reservations about the dual-sport arrangement.

London had grown up a USC fan from a USC family, often wearing a Trojans jersey as a young boy. It was the school he'd always dreamed of attending, he said, but he also wanted to separate the sentimentality from the decision-making process and ensure he was truly choosing the best fit for his future.

Helton, Enfield and their staffs worked together to close the deal.

"Once they got together, the two coaching staffs [at USC] -- and they have such a genuine relationship between the two of them, it's actually really cool to see -- they were like, 'Yeah, we'll totally make it work.' And he felt really comfortable with that," Cindi says.

The family also raves about Bennett, though, and if any coach could have pried London out of Southern California it might have been him. After all, Bennett was the first to identify and embrace his two-sport potential and set this all in motion.

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