YORK -- With former York Comprehensive High basketball great Ivory Latta expected to join the WNBA's Atlanta Dream in two weeks, the new franchise has already begun marketing the national icon.
Charles and Chena Latta, the legendary player's parents, got a glimpse of things to come during a UNC-Georgia Tech game they attended last month in downtown Atlanta's Alexander Memorial Coliseum. They looked at the message board and there was a picture of Ivory with the words: "Look who's coming!"
Said Charles Latta of the marketing of the Tar Heel All-American who energized women's college basketball like none other, "We were bombarded with fans wanting to know all about Ivory and when she would be joining the Atlanta Dream. They said they were looking forward to watching her play."
Tonya Alleyne, the Dream's vice president for media relations, shares the excitement permeating the Southeast's largest city.
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"Ivory Latta embodies the character and fan appeal a new franchise strives for," Alleyne said. "We are excited to have her. She is the perfect fit."
In addition to Latta, the Atlanta team attracted an impressive blend of talent through the expansion draft, including a 6-8 post player.
Alleyne said the Dream front office has been pleased with the response since the announcement was made that the WNBA had accepted Atlanta's desired entry.
"The local support has been fantastic," she said. "We sold 1,600 season tickets before the team came up with a name. Atlanta has great culture."
Latta, whose winter basketball play in Israel is drawing to a close, is ready to make her presence felt in the place they call Hotlanta.
"Ivory is so excited," assures Charles Latta. "She is glad to be closer to home where her family and friends can watch her play at Atlanta's Phillips Arena."
The WNBA is joining the Atlanta team in marketing a player they know will put people in the stands.
All one has to do to keep up with Ivory is go to wnba.com and click on blogs. Ivory's blog has appeared every month since she began playing in Israel.
Here's a sampling of the most recent blog: "So, yeah, Atlanta! I'm really excited. I truly believe it's a great opportunity for me. It's closer to home and I know for sure that friends, family and lots of other folks will be at the games. And I'm not messing around. Almost every member of my family has booked flights and tickets for the first game in Atlanta. I'm sure they'll all be there -- old coaches, teachers, principals, everybody -- for the whole weekend.
"I also believe it will be a great atmosphere because Atlanta has great fan support for women's athletics and for its other teams," she wrote. "I know it'll prove to be a great place to put a WNBA team. And personally, I'm looking forward to a new beginning in my life and career."
Among the York coaches excited about Latta's return to this region of the country is Arsonia Stroud, who summoned seventh-grader Ivory to the varsity team and the rest is history.
"Ivory knew what she had to do to be successful in high school ball," Stroud said. "She worked to improve her game and worked just as hard in the classroom.
"She knew she couldn't play at UNC without the grades," Stroud continued. "So many of today's athletes don't understand that. ... Ivory's work ethic is the best I've seen at this school, boy or girl."
Following college, Latta was drafted by the Detroit Shock. Though Latta saw limited playing time her rookie season with the Shock, she is grateful coach Bill Laimbeer approved the trade that sent her to Atlanta.
Detroit, a perennial WNBA power, is loaded with 30ish Olympic-caliber guards.
It just so happens that the Atlanta Dream's first home game is May 23 against the Shock.
As Alleyne so aptly put it, a franchise team like Atlanta is the perfect fit for a marquee player that can put people in the stands.
And that player is Ivory Latta, a 5-foot-6 bundle of energy.
The Winthrop women's basketball game was not over in time to meet The Herald's deadlines. For more, visit heraldonline.com.