When talking about players who excelled at basketball from an early age, it's not uncommon to hear phrases like, "That kid was born to play the game" or "Basketball is in his DNA." Biologists may scoff at the latter, but in the case of Caleb Homesley, perhaps it's not too far-fetched. After all, he loved the game of basketball before he could even string full sentences together.
Growing up in Indian Trail, N.C., Homesley remembers going over to his grandparents' house and playing basketball on the Fisher Price hoop in the basement. Whenever he was ready to go play a game with his grandfather, Homesley always busted out his trademark catchphrase, "Shoot ball me."
The saying stuck with Homesley throughout his childhood. As he grew older, his grandparents utilized the expression to encourage him in certain situations.
"My grandmother would text it to me before a game sometimes," Homesley said. "She would say, "Shoot ball me. I love you.'"
In high school, Homesley was known for his versatility. Standing at 6-4, he played a variety of positions, including point guard. As he began to find success on the AAU circuit, the offers from various schools mounted. During the summer before his senior year of high school, Homesley and his team visited Liberty's team basketball camp. By the end of the three-day session, the coaching staff made Homesley an offer he wouldn't refuse. On Nov. 12, 2014, he officially signed with the Flames.
With his future plans set, Homesley still had one more season of high school basketball to play at Porter Ridge. One night in December 2014, Homesley and the Pirates squared off against Independence High School. From the onset of the contest, something wasn't right.
"I was having a bad game," Homesley recalled. "My head was not straight. I was mad. I just wasn't playing like myself."
Despite Homesley's in-game struggles, the Pirates had a commanding 15-point lead. With six minutes left in the fourth quarter, Homesley reached out to grab the ball in transition. As he planted his left foot, his knee gave out. He had torn his ACL.
Once the swelling subsided, Homesley underwent surgery the following month. Two to three days later, he began the rehabilitation process.
"It was just painful every day in rehab," Homesley said. "It got to a point where I would be frustrated and not want to go to rehab. I just had to force myself to say that I have to get better."
In the midst of Homesley's recovery, he began to have doubts about his future, but not because of his injury. On April 1, 2015, Ritchie McKay returned to Liberty to become head of the Flames' program. Having not been recruited by McKay and now on the shelf, Homesley wondered where he stood with the new skipper.
"My dad and I talked about it and he said, ‘You've got to keep the faith that God is going to put you in the right spot,'" Homesley recounted. "I was worried, though. I didn't know how things were going to play out."
Homesley soon got his answer while spending time with his family at the beach. As he soaked up the sun, Homesley received a call from McKay. The coach told the young player he liked what he saw in him on film and that it would be unfair if he didn't receive his scholarship.
"I looked deep into that," Homesley said. "I thought, ‘Wow he's really trying to help me already and I don't even know the man.'"
A couple weeks later, McKay and his assistant coaches visited Homesley at his high school. Still unable to play, Homesley shot free throws in the gym, as Liberty's new coaching staff walked into the gym. Homesley and his dad went over to McKay and struck up a great conversation.
"Everything he had to say was positive," Homesley noted. "I just felt like we hit it off from the start."
"We told him that even though he didn't play his senior year and we didn't recruit him, we still wanted him," McKay stated. "We just felt like that was our responsibility. Because Caleb had signed and didn't get a chance to play his senior year, we felt like we owed him an opportunity to play for the school that he chose."
Homesley was cleared to practice by August, approximately three months before the start of the 2015-16 campaign. Once the season hit, it was evident Homesley just needed some time to regain confidence in his left leg. There were small hints of his true ability early on, like his trio of three-pointers in a 58-second span during Liberty's game against Western Michigan in Nashville (Nov. 27). However, Homesley reserved his statement game for a storied opponent in front of a national TV audience.
On Dec. 29, the Flames stepped into Purcell Pavilion for a meeting with Notre Dame. It was a matchup which the Fighting Irish were heavily favored to win, but that did not stop Homesley from showcasing his skill set.
"People just expected us to go in there and get blown out," Homesley stated. "People were thinking we're not that good. When I went in there, I just played with so much confidence [that I felt] I could play with anybody on the court."
Since that 18-point outburst against Notre Dame on ESPNU, Homesley has become one of the guys on Liberty's selfless team capable of posting double-digit points any given night. When looking at the freshman's maturation this season, McKay likes what he sees.
"He really has been the most improved player from start to finish in our season," McKay commented. "I really like his future. If he works, he'll have a chance to be all-league in the Big South."
Speaking of the future, Homesley's desire is to play as long as possible. After that, he'd like to get into coaching. Since he was saying, "shoot ball me" in his grandparents' basement, Homesley has always possessed a childlike fervor for the game of basketball. It's for that reason, he never wants to grow apart from it.
"I love the sport," Homesley said. "I don't ever want to go away from it. It's just something that's always been with me – the love for the sport. It's crazy. I just feel like if I were to do something else not related to basketball, I wouldn't. It wouldn't happen."
--- By Eric Brown, Assistant Athletics Communications Director for Liberty University
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