Just 5-6, Ivory Latta has carried UNC to new heights
Posted: Thursday February 2, 2006 5:13PM; Updated: Monday February 6, 2006 6:21PM
Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma compares Ivory Latta to her hero, Allen Iverson.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Sylvia Hatchell and Ivory Latta have had a running dialogue about Latta's height for a couple of years now. Hatchell, the coach of No. 1 North Carolina, is a shade over 5-foot-6 and says she looks down on her point guard, who is generously listed at 5-6. The plot gets thicker if you ask Latta's mother, Chenna, for the official measurement. She says Ivory is closer to 5-3, adding, with a laugh, "Ivory threatened me not to tell anybody." Ivory Latta disputes all these claims.
"My freshman year I was 5-5," says Latta. "Last year I was 5-6. This year I'm 5-7, but ain't nobody hearing me."
Latta says her goal is to convince Hatchell to list her at 5-7 for her senior season -- and she may well get her wish. "As long as she keeps playing like she's playing," says Hatchell, laughing, "we'll list her at whatever height she wants."
There's a whole Latta love for Ivory in Chapel Hill these days. The Tar Heels (20-0) are the only undefeated Division I team in women's basketball, thanks in no small part to the big play of their point guard. Latta leads North Carolina in scoring (16.8 points per game) and assists (5.4), while shooting 47.5 percent from the floor. She leads the ACC in 3-pointers made (49) and is third in scoring. The Tar Heels are 5-0 against ranked teams, and the 74-70 win over rival and then-No. 1 Duke on Jan. 29 vaulted North Carolina to the top spot in the rankings, the first time the program has ever been atop the Associated Press poll and ESPN/USA TODAY poll during the season.
"We're just so talented," says Latta, 21. "I don't want to brag and make it seems like we're the best out there. Our coach always says we are a very, very talented team because we are so active on defense. We make it hard for other teams to try to set up their offense."
North Carolina's goal is to constantly run and push the tempo -- the Heels aim for 100 possessions every game -- which fits Latta's baseline-to-baseline style. "I look at her and I compare her to Allen Iverson," says UConn coach Geno Auriemma, who watched Latta torch his Huskies for 21 points in a 77-54 Carolina win on Dec. 5 in Hartford. "There is really nothing that she doesn't do well. She can run, pass, handle and shoot. She sees the floor and plays hard. Size to that kid is irrelevant."
The Iverson analogy is apt. Hatchell calls her "I" and Latta says she has patterned her game after the Sixers star. "When we were recruiting her, that's all she used to talk about, Allen Iverson," says Hatchell. "I said, 'Now, Ivory, you know how he is, now'. She said, 'Well, I want my game to be like his game.' I said, 'Well, off the court I want you to be a little better than that.' But as far as a player, that's how she wants to play."