By Gene Graham
YORK Arsonia Stroud knew Ivory Latta was special when the former York Comprehensive High School head girls basketball coach elevated the 5-foot-6 seventh-grade bundle of energy to the varsity level 15 years ago.
Latta's remarkable varsity career at YCHS has been well documented. She torched the nets like no other player in the history of high school basketball in the Palmetto State.
Latta, whose 3-point shooting, court savvy and dribble penetration rendered opponents seemingly helpless, averaged 45 points per game her senior year with the Lady Cougars.
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She's the all-time career scoring leader in girls and boys high school basketball in South Carolina.
Latta's next stop was the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where she led the Lady Tar Heels in scoring and earned first team All-America honors.
Latta became a national icon and an ESPN TV darling, signing perhaps more autographs than any player in the history of women's basketball.
The McConnells native's next stop, the WNBA, would be a challenge like none other in her storied basketball career.
She was drafted by Detroit, a championship-caliber team loaded with talent, and was on the outside looking in for most of the season.
Latta was traded to the Atlanta Dream, which appeared to be the right fit for the dynamic floor leader.
But it was not to be for whatever the reason.
Latta was the face of he Atlanta program for a period of time until the head coach brought in a couple role players and relegated Latta to spot duty. Go figure.
After being released by the Dream, Latta was picked up the Tulsa Shock and contributed right away until she was slowed by the injury bug.
This year, she's healthy and clicking on all cylinders for the Shock and new head coach Gary Kloppenburg.
Latta is the Shock's leading scorer, averaging 14.3 points per game and sizzles at the free throw line, converting 87 percent of her charity tosses.
She scored 24 points in Sunday's 86-75 loss to the Connecticut Sun.
Stroud said she knew the WNBA would pose a new challenge for Latta.
“The WNBA has big, athletic guards, she noted.
She also knew Latta would succeed at the professional level.
“Ivory can cope in the WNBA now because of the way she was brought up,” observed Stroud, who spends her time these days developing and nurturing talent at the middle school level. “She will not accept failure.
“She's been that way since the seventh-grade and before. I knew Ivory when she was in elementary school and she had a passion for the game then.”
Stroud is keenly aware that Latta is a basketball phenomenon.
“She can do things others can't do,” Stroud said. “She's put in the time it takes to become physically strong, which makes her mentally tough.
“You pick up a basketball and you dribble it and shoot it. But it's what a player does away from the basketball court, physical conditioning and total commitment.”
Concluded Stroud, “I credit her mom and dad, and I credit Ivory for her commitment and passion for the game and for having the faith to cope.
“I hope I live long enough to see what Ivory does after basketball. She will impact people's lives in other ways.”