Sunday, June 24, 2018
Sports

Legacy of quiet dignity in Sooner

NORMAN, Okla. — Years ago, long after David Lattin became known as "Big Daddy," he saw a bit of himself in his grandson as the preschooler played and ran.

Lattin told Khadeem's mother that her son would someday be a basketball player, as he was. Grandpa was right, of course, and his pride has grown as Khadeem Lattin became the player he is now, a 20-year-old starting forward at NCAA championship hopeful Oklahoma.

Their similarities transcend the sport they love. David Lattin's quiet strength, determination and work ethic have been passed on. All those qualities have helped Khadeem on the court — and off.

When Oklahoma's campus was rocked by a race-tinged controversy last year, David Lattin, 72, knew his grandson was especially prepared to process what was happening. After all, Khadeem knows well his grandfather's role in college basketball lore as one of the five all-black players who started for Texas Western in its landmark 1966 NCAA final victory over a Kentucky team that started five whites.

Khadeem was a freshman when members of OU's Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter were recorded singing a racist chant in a video posted online.

David reached out to offer Khadeem guidance, but the younger Lattin was prepared to respond the same way David did decades earlier — with quiet strength. He chose simply to join others on campus in a silent protest.

"I think everybody understands there's been racial problems, and there's never going to be a perfect world, maybe not in my lifetime, but it is what it is," David Lattin said. "He understands that he has to deal with it, and he's not going run away from it, he's going to face it head on and do what he can to help others and do his thing. I'm proud of him for that."

David Lattin is just as proud of his team's accomplishment 50 years ago. But he always understood some battles would be left to future generations and is thankful that his grandson could have gone anywhere to school, including those in the South that were slow to integrate in the '60s.

"My grandfather's story — it means a lot," Khadeem said. "It's wonderful to know that a Lattin has left an enormous impact on the game of basketball in the way that it's played and the way that people see it. I love it. It's nice to have something like that and know that my name means something important in the world and in history."

Shockers all set: All it took was a First Four game to validate Wichita State's selection into the tournament field, as if it needed any validation.

Now, after statement victories over Vanderbilt and Arizona, there seem to be no limits for these Shockers (26-8).

"I think our body of work and the type of team we are, we felt good about ourselves in terms of getting in," Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet said Friday. "It's just a matter of who, what, where, when, why, that type of question."

Next up is a second-round game today against Miami (26-7), the third seed in the South. Much of the focus will be on veteran backcourts — WSU's VanVleet and Ron Baker against the Hurricanes' Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan. The Miami duo is a tad older, the Shockers have more tournament experience.

In memory: Butler announced it has partnered with Be The Match, which operates the national bone marrow registry, in honor of late player Andrew Smith. Smith, 25, died in January after a battle with cancer. He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2014. He played in the 2010 and 2011 NCAA title games with Butler.

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