Former LHS star brings real world experience to CU
London Elie is the oldest of six children named for places. Her siblings' names are Icelyn, Hyland [the only brother], Scottlyn, Ireland and Asia.
What the former Lebanon High two-sport star has experienced between her 2008 graduation and her matriculation at Cumberland University may have earned her a different name - Real World.
Most parents today are experienced at juggling work and children. London had to balance a baby with taking college classes, studying and practicing and playing basketball - in separate towns.
"My grades started dropping," London told me after her Cumberland team went to 9-0 with a win over Bluefield last week. "I'd get [to Trevecca Nazarene in Nashville] at 6:30, 7:00 [a.m.] and not leave until 10 o'clock [at night]. He was, maybe 2-3-weeks old. It was getting to where I wasn't seeing him. And then it was like choosing between homework and baby and I started getting stressed out."
Then, she moved back on campus, and her personal life got even worse.
"I'd go a week or two without him," London said. "I just started letting school fall."
She transferred to Cumberland, but Trevecca wouldn't grant her release from her scholarship, forcing her to sit out a season, which turned out to be a blessing.
"I definitely needed the break that I took off," she said. "I needed it to basically find myself and get that little drive."
It wasn't her first break from basketball. Her first came when she gave birth to son Jayden as a Trevecca freshman. After that redshirt season, she blossomed as a basketball player with the Lady Trojans. Admittedly a volleyball player first while at LHS, the 6-3 Elie made hoops her focus in college.
"Before, I played basketball because it seemed like it was expected of me," she said. "My first true love was volleyball."
And it was obvious. She dominated in volleyball, but was a raw player in basketball while a Devilette. Icelyn also played volleyball, but blossomed into a star hoops player as a junior and is now an All-Sun Belt Conference performer at Middle Tennessee State, for which she scored a game-high 21 points in a loss at Tennessee last week.
"I pushed basketball to the side," London said. "I made basketball Icelyn's game and volleyball, I had to be one or the other, so I chose volleyball.
"Once I stopped playing volleyball, it was like basketball was fun. It started coming to me. I can be better than what I was in the beginning."
She was blessed in that Trevecca was a guard-oriented team, prompting opponents to focus on guarding the perimeter and essentially leaving London alone, or with a single defender, in the post.
"Normally, I expect to be double teamed," London said. "It was just me having to step it up just being about the only post on the team. It started coming to me then."
Her talent comes to her honestly. Scottlyn currently plays for LHS, where she is a junior. Her father, Lester, was the leading scorer for Northwestern [La.] State in the early 1970s. A cousin, Alana Beard, is a former Duke All-American who is now playing overseas and spends her summers with the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks.
She is averaging 10.6 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game, a key component in the Lady Bulldogs' resurgence which saw them return to the NAIA poll at No. 7 earlier this week under fourth-year coach Jeremy Lewis.
"She's been the big piece, the inside piece that we have not had," Lewis said. "I haven't had a player like her here. She's still adjusting to our style of play and our fit.
"More than anything, she sat out a year and she lost a lot of weight. You can see she's really, really thin. We're trying to get it back on her. But I haven't coached a player like her. She can affect a game in so many ways. People think about her as a scorer. We're trying to get her to see she can dominate a game defensively blocking shots and rebounding, and then score when we need her to score... Our ceiling is how good she is. And she comes in here every single day working. She wants to be the best in our league and the best in the country at her position. But she's a humble kid. She plays within herself, plays within the concept of the team. She's a special person, a special player."
At age 22, she's older than most of her teammates and her struggles as a working single mother [basketball is a job after all] and student are unique on the team.
"That's something we talked to her about when we brought her in was 'you have been through some life things that these girls haven't. You can bring a different type of maturity'," Lewis said. "We already had a veteran club. Adding her to it, and a couple of other transfers, has been great. And the chemistry on this team is spectacular. It's because of kids like her."
She is listed as a redshirt junior and said she plans to return next year.
"In the beginning I said 'I'm not going to Cumberland; it's right up the street from my home'," she said. "But it turned out to be a great decision. I love it."
As for the names which might have been picked out of National Geographic maps?
"I couldn't even tell you the story behind that," London said. "Once I was named, my mom couldn't name Icelyn 'Ashley' or Hyland 'David'. Mom didn't even want to have kids, and she ended up having six."
Now, that's the real world.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at email@example.com