ATLANTA -- Several years ago, Dr. Winslow Schock, a Rock Hill chiropractor, coined the word "Lattatude," which became a buzz word for his Cheer for Children.
He did so and made former York Comprehensive High School Basketball star Ivory Latta the face of his organization that gives gifts to at-need children in the area.
It's a good word, a better choice of who to immortalize. Latta plays the game of basketball with a zest seldom seen. She smiles from the opening tip until the final buzzer.
When Latta questions a call, she flashes a sly grin and shrugs her shoulders at the ref, who in her opinion, just blew it.
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She led the Lady Cougars to the Class AAA state championship as a junior in 2002. She took them back as a senior, breaking nearly every record the South Carolina High School League keeps, including most career points by a male or female player, 4,319.
Latta set the mark for most points in a single game, 70, in the third round of the playoffs her senior year. And let's not forget she was named the Morgan Wooten Player of the Year at the McDonald's All-Star Game in Cleveland. Some guy by the name of LeBron James was the boys winner.
Latta went on to star at North Carolina, where she became the darling of women's basketball. Suddenly, more little girls than the ones in York wanted to grow up to be Ivory Latta. She became a national sensation, a 5-foot-6 guard who could nail the 3-pointer, control the ball, run the court, play defense and go up against much bigger players.
So it was no surprise that York varsity girls coach Paula Blackwell lined up a trip to Atlanta on Tuesday to see Latta and her WNBA team, the Dream, host the Sacramento Monarchs.
The bus quickly filled up, one from the York activity fleet, and Blackwell had to make a waiting list for those without a seat. At 25 bucks a person, it was a great deal. The price included the ride and a ticket to the game, which began at Atlanta's Phillips Arena, also home to the Atlanta Hawks, at 11 a.m.
Blackwell, who was an assistant coach under Arsonia Stroud when Latta played, laid down the ground rules and said they would be followed to the letter. Be ready to board the bus behind the York school district office at 5:45 a.m. and the bus would pull out promptly at 6.
She fudged a little.
York principal Diane Howell was running late because she stopped to pick up several boxes of biscuits -- "Sausage or bacon, egg and cheese?" she asked -- and was told they wouldn't be ready until around 6.
Steve Boyd, York's athletics director, was on time, but barely. And while the bus waited for Howell, he passed out soft drinks and bottled water from iced down coolers before loading them beneath the seating area of the bus.
"And one more thing before taking off," Blackwell told the driver and other 41 passengers with sleepy eyes. "We'll keep rolling until we get to the rest stop on the other side of Anderson. We have a tight schedule."
There were moans of displeasure, but not even holding it that long could dampen -- sorry, had to -- the day. We couldn't miss a minute of Ivory.
Latta is with her second WNBA team after being drafted by the Detroit Shock, for whom she averaged seven minutes per game off the bench. Latta was traded to the expansion Dream this season and has taken over at point guard.
She recently helped snap the Dream's 17-game losing streak to start the season with a team-leading 18 points in the franchise's first-ever victory, over Chicago on July 5. The Dream didn't win Tuesday, losing 79-66, but Latta has won over a new crowd of fans and got the biggest cheer when the teams were introduced.
"It's like I've been reborn," Latta said after the game. "Last year, I lost my opportunity to play, but I won it back after being traded here. This is a good team. We are young, but we are getting better because we are building a solid foundation.
"I'm really happy to be here, and I'm really happy all these coach and players from my team, and people who supported me in high school are here today. It's really all great."
York's 11 players that made the trip were given Dream T-shirts and told to walk to midcourt for the introduction of players. The lights went down when it was the Dream's turn and as each player ran onto the court -- the reserves first -- she ran to a York player and handed her an orange and white WNBA basketball. It continued until all 11 had one, which they were allowed to keep.
"I though we'd have to give them back," said Stacey Amburgey, the team's student athletic trainer. "They told us the players would hand us balls, but we didn't know we could keep them."
Latta scored only five points the opening half, but ended the game tied with center Terry Kasha for a team-leading 15. She missed the final three minutes, as was taken off the court and to the locker room after being elbowed in the mouth.
"She was bleeding," said Boyd's wife, Helen. "I sure hope she's all right."
Latta returned to the bench for the final minute and signed autographs as she left the court, writing on everything being thrust her way.
"Look at this," she said before heading off to join her team. "I got one of my teeth knocked out."
That was double bad news for the York group. They had been given passes to meet with Latta after the game for hugs and autographs. But the word was put out -- take your pick -- that she wouldn't be allowed to because of her injury or because it wasn't her turn to come out and sign.
Heads were hanging with the news that their hero would not be joining them, but the new word was she was coming anyway, and she did. Latta signed most of the basketballs, photos of her bought at the souvenir stand, programs, the backs of Dream T-shirts the players had been handed.
Lauren McSwain was unable to get her ball signed, but Amburgey came to the rescue and traded her signed one to McSwain. Those kinds of acts were performed all day. As York school board member Shirley Harris -- who was joined on the trip by board member Betty Johnson -- said, this was a special bus and all of us should get together soon and go on another trip.
It was that good. That fun. And on the trip back after lunch at the CNN Center Food Court, the players in the back of the bus began singing "Jingle Bells."
It was 100-plus degrees outside, but the day had been like Christmas in July.