Tahlequah Daily Press

Sports

August 10, 2012

Latta having career year for Shock

She is in the midst of her best professional season to date. Her averages are up across the board.

But Ivory Latta’s journey to this point in her career has been a long and winding road — one that includes trips all over the globe.

“Through all my ups and downs, professional basketball has been great to me,” said the 5-foot-6, 143-pound Tulsa Shock guard after the team completed a practice at Sequoayh’s Place Where They Play on Thursday. “I’ve seen a lot of places...I’ve traveled the world. The game of basketball has taken me lots of places.”

For the Shock (3-15) this season, Latta is posting career-high averages in points (14.1), rebounds (2.2) and 3-point percentage (.367).

It wasn’t quite the same in 2007, when she was drafted by the Detroit Shock 11th overall after completing a stellar career at North Carolina — where she led the Tar Heels to the NCAA tournament every season, including two trips to the national semifinals.

“Being a top player in North Carolina and coming into the league with Detriot my first year, it went to one through 13 [on a WNBA roster] being good,” said Latta, who averaged 16.6 points per game during her four years at North Carolina. “I just had to sit back and take on a different role. It was a learning experience for me.”

Her first year in the WNBA, Latta only played seven minutes a game and averaged three points. That led her to a stint in Israel, where she played for Elizur Holon and posted 23.5 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

“It was a great experience. I loved it,” Latta said of her time in Israel. “...That’s the main thing for a WNBA player. Once we get done with the WNBA season, I’d say about 85 percent of the whole WNBA goes overseas and just continues during the offseason.”

While she admits the WNBA is the toughest competition in women’s basketball, Latta said international basketball isn’t too far off.

“I think it’s more competitive here in the WNBA,” she said, “but at the same time, just getting that experience overseas, there’s nothing like it.”

Once the 2008 season rolled around, Latta found herself in Atlanta after the Dream drafted her in the expansion draft. That provided the South Carolina native to play professional basketball close to home.

“I was really happy to be going to Atlanta,” said Latta, who posted 11.4 points per game in 2008. “I’m from South Carolina, so I just knew it was a golden opportunity for my parents to come see me play.”

Latta’s numbers trailed off in 2009, but a stint with Ceyhan in Turkey propelled her into a now-successful career in Tulsa.

“I had an amazing season in Turkey,” she said. “I made the All-Star team and was named one of the top players there. Then, from Turkey there was a golden opportunity for me to come to Tulsa.”

She hasn’t looked back since.

While sporting a Shock uniform — now in her third season of doing so, Latta has posted no worse than 12.2 points per game and her turnovers have been on a gradual decline.

Now, she’s leading Tulsa in scoring. And she’s not afraid to admit that she’s currently enjoying a banner year.

“It’s coming along to be one of my best years of my career,” said Latta, who matched a career-high with 25 points in a loss to Minnesota on July 10. “That boils down to the great staff that we have now. Coach (Gary) Kloppenburg is a great coach and the whole coaching staff is amazing.”

Kloppenburg — who didn’t take any of the credit for Latta’s breakout season — said Latta is proving her potential during her fifth season in the WNBA.

“She’s had a really good year,” he said. “She shoots the ball well. She’s tough and she handles the ball well. She’s really improved her game, and she’s kind of a little spark plug out there.”

Now it’s just a matter of Tulsa stringing together some victories. And Latta says those days are coming.

“Once we get it together and everybody gets healthy,” she said, “I think we’re going to make a run in the second half. I can feel it.”

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