The education of Rashann London

Posted: June 04, 2014

RASHANN LONDON was in a rush.

It was a tepid, spring daybreak last April as London scurried down the gray-carpeted stairs of his brick-patterned row home in Mount Airy. He rushed to the door with his gym bag around his body, fully stocked, ready for the road.

London met his coach outside his home right off Wadsworth and Michener avenues. He leapt into the black pickup and slammed his passenger door shut.

But before he could depart, his cellphone chirped: buzz, buzz. He looked down to see a call from Nate London, his father. When he answered, he immediately dropped his duffel and plunged his face into his hands in despair.

For Nate London, Rashann's future was bigger than basketball, even if that meant telling his son he would miss out on a tournament to complete a tiny project for school.

"Basketball will come and go but no one can take that education away from you," Nate London said in a phone interview last week. "That's why the student comes before the athlete. But to be able to take advantage of basketball as an avenue, you have to be a great student."

And Rashann London didn't slouch during his days at Roman Catholic.

The 6-2 guard averaged 15.4 points per game in Catholic League play as a senior and helped lead Roman to a 13-0 league record, 23-5 overall. The Cahillites eventually lost to Lower Merion in the second round of the PIAA AAAA championships.

Off the court, he followed his father's vision. London earned a 3.3 grade-point average in high school and has aspirations to major in sports management at Drexel.

London's family structure and academic-first attitude is what eventually led him to deciding on Drexel for his next 4 years of basketball and undergraduate studies.

"They push me very hard," London said of his family, including his mother, Omega London. "I wouldn't be able to play basketball if my grades weren't right. They told me that basketball might stop one day and I might have to get a job, and my degree is important to me."

His family attended every game during London's career at Roman and will continue to do so at Drexel, but Nate London said he's not a raucous, "team dad" in the stands.

The Londons like to keep it "low-key."

"You get people that you're sitting nearby to voice their genuine opinion about your kid that way," Nate London said. "People will be critical of you one way or another, but I like to stay silent and I like to see other people's opinion. There'll be no signs, no T-shirts, nothing like that. That's not going to happen."

Rashann London is headed to Drexel at the end of June to get an early start on his academics. He said he wants to be on the Colonial Athletic Association all-rookie team and make the all-conference team for the 4 years.

With the Dragons finishing 16-14 in 2013-14, and having six players depart, it could be a rough patch through London's freshman season.

"Usually after a loss I'm pretty down, but not too bad that I can't get over it," London said." I hate to lose, so I don't always take it too well, but I definitely feel like I can weather anything. If we are losing or when it comes to playing time, all that has to do with me. If there's playing time I think I should be getting, that's my fault and I can't get mad at the coaches."

One of the those coaches is assistant Bobby Jordan, a former Cahillite who helped lure London to Drexel.

London refers to Jordan as his "dad on campus," the man who encourages him to play harder after a tough loss or poor performance. He recruited London to bring "that family atmosphere" to the urban campus' Daskalakis Athletic Center.

"I think he's your typical Philadelphia guard: a tough, hard-nosed player," Jordan said last week.

Jordan also pointed out the track record of head coach Bruiser Flint in graduating his players.

"Actually, in Bruiser Flint's 13 years at Drexel, he has graduated every player he's had and makes sure our guys get their degrees," Jordan said. "That's something that we really preach as a staff but, more importantly, coach Flint takes pride in graduating all the guys that he's coached in our program."

So, with encouragement from his dad, a Philly cop, his mom, who works in the medical field, and his new overseer on campus, Rashann is set up to be the proverbial student-athlete.

That is, as long as he remembers the lesson his father taught him a year ago on that April morning. That the word "student" always comes before "athlete," a lesson Rashann has learned to love.

"A lot of kids aren't thinking about what happens after basketball," Rashann London said. "But it's always been in my head. Basketball was never everything. I want to have my profession, and I still want to be around sports."

On Twitter: @TylerRickyTynes

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