Drake London has a ready answer for anyone who doubts his quest, for any skeptic who thinks playing both football and basketball at an NCAA Division 1 powerhouse is akin to reaching for a handful of moon rocks.
Or, really, why do this?
“Why not?” he says matter-of-factly. “It’s something I’ve done all my life. I love both sports. It’s what I do. I want to get my degree, play two sports and, hopefully, become a pro athlete. That’s my dream.”
London, Moorpark (Calif.) High School’s two-sport senior standout, has been — by any measuring stick, any criteria, any definition — a high school superstar. It’s become an overworked honorific, but not for this Musketeer.
At 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, he blends a rare combination of size, speed, quickness, physicality and smarts to excel on the football field and basketball floor.
He’s first-team All-Coastal Canyon League, All-Ventura County, All-CIF-Southern Section and all-state in both sports, and owns statistics that earn him merit as a singular talent.
In his senior year at wide receiver with the Moorpark football team, he snared 62 receptions for 1,089 yards and 12 touchdowns and averaged 17.6 yards per catch. He finished as the No. 2 wide receiver in CIF-SS Division 3.
On the basketball court, he scored 902 points while averaging 29.2 points, 11.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.4 rebounds per game. His diversified game included 42 3-pointers, and his points total now stands No. 3 all-time for a single season in the county.
But the best summary of London’s skills set? It’s where he’s heading next.
With high school graduation just weeks away, London — who turns 18 in July — will next enroll at the University of Southern California, where’s he’s been awarded a full athletic scholarship. He intends to play for the Trojans’ football and basketball teams.
London made his commitment last June, officially inked his letter of intent in the early signing period in November, and said USC represents his dream school.
Playing football and basketball at the Division 1 level will be a remarkable feat, and is believed to be a first for a Ventura County athlete.
London is cognizant of the challenge, but said for him it’s business as usual.
“I’ve been playing high school football and basketball and AAU basketball, usually at the same time, for a long time,” he said. “I’m usually going from one to another, and then coming home to study. I’m used to it.”
Then, with a grin, he adds: “It’s a little weird not to be doing any of those right now. I’m kind of resting up and getting myself ready physically and mentally for college. Just taking a little bit of a break right now.”
London’s head coaches at Moorpark acknowledge the commitment, dedication and old-fashioned grit he’ll need to hurdle the challenges awaiting him when he steps onto the USC campus.
Yet, they also said he’s a one-of-a-kind student-athlete.
“If anybody can do this, it’s Drake,” said Moorpark basketball coach Ryan Moore. “He checks all the physical boxes, but he’s also got the attitude and mindset that can make it happen.
“I’m talked to him about all the commitment that it’s going to take. If he’s in football season, he’ll need to get into the Galen Center in the morning, before football practice and school, and put up shots. Or he’ll need to do it at night. He’ll need to make the make use of his time.
“He just told me: ‘Coach, what else am I going to do? I’m not a partier. I don’t have a big social circle. I’m going there to get my degree and play sports.’ “
Moorpark head football coach Ryan Huisenga echoed the sentiments.
“He has the mentality to succeed at whatever he wants to do, and a lot of that comes from his parents,” said Huisenga. “He’s used to having structure in his life, and that allows him to focus on the task at hand.
“He simply knows how to compartmentalize the priorities in his life, and get things done. He’s shown he’s ready for any challenge.”
Always, it’s team first
Athletic gifts aside, there’s another key reason why London may be poised to make a two-sport splash in college.
He’s a star who never thinks of himself as a star.
Asked to pick out his favorite memories as a high school athlete, London doesn’t hesitate.
“It’s the friends I’ve made,” he said. “These are guys I’ve grown up with, and we’ve got through a lot together. I think that’s what I enjoy most about sports. It’s a bunch of guys pulling together for the good of the team. I feel good about what we did together.”
Among the highlights as a Musketeer was reaching the CIF-SS Division 5 championship with the football team as a junior, and elevating a basketball team that won four games the prior season into a Division 3AA quarterfinalist as a senior.
London may have been the team centerpiece, but he never sought the spotlight. He, truthfully, is all about production, shy about publicity.
“I don’t like to be boastful,” he said. “That’s not the way I was raised. I just like playing the game and being around my teammates.”
London, of course, is a fierce competitor. “I really hate to lose,” he said.
But his mother, Cindi London, said her son has a side that most fans never see.
“He’s a different person at home than he is on the field or the court,” she said. “He’s a funny kid, loves to joke around and pull pranks. At least he does with his family and friends. Most people never see that.”
London agrees that family life — with dad Dwan, mom Cindi and sister Makayla — is where he’s comfortable.
“I’m a homebody,” he said.
London eschews parties, isn’t into wide social circles and has a girlfriend for the first time. Relaxation for him is time with his family and friends.
Huisenga tells the story of a recent Friday night, when he knows a lot of Moorpark students have planned to attend a certain big party.
“I go to Target at night at 8 o’clock and who do I see?” said the football coach. “It’s Drake and he’s there with Noah Cronquist, Ian Meier and other football guys. They’re deciding on which dye works best for Ian’s hair. That’s Drake. Not one for the party scene.”
London’s foray into sports may have been preordained.
His father, from Oxnard, and mother, from Camarillo, met at an eighth-grade basketball game. They really started their relationship a year later, eventually married, and moved to Moorpark in 2004.
There were always signs that athletics was Drake’s passion.
“His first words was ‘ball, ball,’ ” said Cindi. “His first-grade teacher told us that he always was active. He always wanted to be busy doing something.”
Drake said the family story is that whenever he’d visit his grandmother’s house in Camarillo, his dad would take him outside to the basketball hoop in the driveway.
“My dad says he would say let’s shoot hoops,” said London. “I didn’t know what that meant, but I’d pick up the little ball and try to shoot it.”
London tried just about every sport, including baseball and soccer, but always returned to basketball and football as his favorites.
He always knew he would attend the local high school, and never was a precocious phenom that acquaintances on his youth teams were interested in steering to other high schools.
There’s a good reason, said London.
“I was a small kid,” he said. “When I entered high school, I was 5-6. It wasn’t until then that I started to grow — to 6 feet, 6-2 and now 6-5. Am I still growing? My parents think I am. We’ll see.”
After playing football and basketball for four years in high school, there’s a compelling reason why London intends to ride the same tandem at USC.
He can’t decide between the two.
Cindi said it was always assumed Drake would settle on one sport for college. Friends and family were always asking, Which one?
In the end, it’s two.
“As it came time during the recruiting, Drake told us he couldn’t choose one over the other,” said Cindi. “We’ll support whatever he wants to do.”