Versatile London leads Conway Wampus Cats

Levi GIlbert
Conway High School’s Caleb London is a member of this year’s 501 Basketball Team, sponsored by Conway Regional Health System, First Security Bank and Conway Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center. (Mike Kemp photo)

by Levi Gilbert

Caleb London’s senior season has been a paradox — filled with change, but still yet, familiar. 

After playing in his comfort zone at guard the last two seasons, London has had to move to the post to fill a need. Despite playing out of his natural position, he’s still putting up big numbers for the Wampus Cats, averaging close to 20 points per game, and helping lead them back to the state tournament. 

“Having a lack of depth in the post has definitely been a challenge for our team this year,” London said. “Playing the four this year has not been the most fun being that it’s not my original position and has taken away from other areas of my game, but I know that I have to do whatever will get the job done. I’ve learned that I have to crash offensive boards more in order to get shots up.”

After finishing in the 6A semifinals a year ago, London and the Wampus Cats are in position to earn the No. 3 seed out of the 6A Central and return for another deep playoff run.

“Last year’s team was definitely special,” London said. “We had a lot of talent, and the chemistry was phenomenal. This year’s team is different because we are more defense oriented, versus last year’s team. We were more of an offensive threat. This year’s team is special because we get gritty wins.”

With a mix of youth and upperclassmen across the board, the Wampus Cats (18-7, 8-5) have combined fundamentals with dynamic athleticism on both ends of the floor.

“Jayden Williams has been good at rebounding this year. Kyler Spencer is a very unique player and specializes in versatility,” London said. “I can see him being a tough match-up for players these next three years. I like his game and enjoy playing with him on the floor. At times our guard play has been good this year, and I think that the main thing that JaCoby Easley, Paul Harris and Trey Tull have helped the team with in a great way is their defense. Lucas Foster has hit some clutch 3s. Bryce Bohanon’s speed is very helpful on the floor to get us into transition. Xavier Robinson has been a great asset to our team. He comes in and does whatever he needs to do to help win games, and in my eyes, is one our most important players.”

London was selected to this year’s 501 Basketball Team — 41 players representing the best the 501 has to offer both on and off the court. The team is sponsored by Conway Regional Health System, First Security Bank and Conway Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Center. The senior was nominated by his head coach, Salty Longing.

“Caleb is an explosive athlete with a very high IQ,” Longing wrote in his nomination. “Though a good perimeter shooter, he is much better slashing and attacking the rim. He’s a good decision-maker and can play the point when needed. Caleb is the leader, without a doubt.”

As an all-state performer at guard the last two seasons, London’s nearly seamless transition to the post and versatility to play wherever he is needed in any given situation hasn’t gone unnoticed in his final season in a Wampus Cat jersey.

“Caleb has impressed me with his ability to score at the pace he is scoring against some of the best teams in the state,” said Jeff Matthews, play-by-play announcer for Wampus Cat basketball on Conway Corp. “Those teams have watched him for years, and they know he is our catalyst and they make plans to stop him — yet he still finds a way to score 20 a night. His body size and style translate much more to a shooting guard at the next level, in my opinion, yet this year he has played basically all five positions on the court at times. It has been very impressive to watch.”

With one final conference game left to play, the outcome at Bryant this week will determine just how high or low the Wampus Cats finish in the 6A Central playoff seedings before returning to Bryant again next week for the state tournament. 

“In order to finish strongly, our team just needs to play our roles as players and stay humble because I feel like we have a strong enough team to finish well in the tournament if everyone does their part,” London said. “We each bring different strengths to the team. As long as we focus on those strengths, then our team will be much stronger as a whole. Tournament play is more like a game of chess, not checkers. We have to make good decisions and play smart.

“It is definitely not going to be easy being on the road against Bryant, so we will just have to do what we do best, which is rebounding and defensive play. Our team could be very dangerous in the state tournament because of our defense.”

When high school basketball concludes in March, it won’t be the end of London’s basketball career. London will play college ball in Jonesboro for Arkansas State. For the Memphis native, joining the Red Wolves made sense for several reasons. 

“I chose Arkansas State because of the coaching staff and the relationship that they’ve built with my family and me,” London said. “I also like how close it is to Memphis so that my family can come to watch me play in the future. I wanted to be able to create my own path and legacy and do something that hasn’t been done before.”

Off the court, London is involved in student council, serves as the vice president of Future Business Leaders of America and is an officer for Caring Cats. 

“I’m involved in student council at school because I like making decisions that are going to help other students,” London said. “I enjoy FBLA because I am going to major in finance and business administration, and I feel like it will help me get started.”

London and the Wampus Cats return to action at Bryant at 6 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28.

“If I could say anything to future student athletes, it would be to always have confidence in yourself,” London said. “Focus on your craft, never let anyone tear you down and remember that no matter what sport you play, someone is always watching. Be the person who you looked up to.”