Q+A: Ivory Latta
The Shock PG discusses her new shoe, basketball camp, children’s book and more.
by Christian Mordi / @mordi_thecomeup
Ivory Latta has broke ground in female basketball. Not too many in this growing professional sport get their own shoe, so Ivory jumped on the opportunity when Nfinity Shoes called.
In addition to her own signature sneaker, Latta has taken advantage of the platform basketball has given her in other ways. The South Carolina native has created the Ivory Latta Skills Camp, dedicated to teaching young basketball players how to succeed on and off the court.
SLAMonline spoke to Ivory about her children’s book, what inspired her to create the camp, her season with the Tulsa Shock and more.
SLAM: Ivory, this year was your most productive in the WNBA, with you averaging over 14 points per game. Why was this year such a personal success for you?
Ivory Latta: Well, a big key to my success this year was my off-season training. I also changed my eating habits and cut out a lot of things I was eating. Also being healthy was a huge factor, because I was 100 percent this year.
I also felt like with their being a new coach being brought in, I had a fresh opportunity, so I took advantage of it. I did the best I could to lead the team and I am looking forward to taking my game to another level this offseason.
SLAM: You play overseas as well. Tell us the difference in the style of play. Any negatives or positives in playing overseas?
IL: Well I have played everywhere, Turkey, Isreal, everywhere. Israel is one of the best countries I have played in, it’s beautiful. It is like every day you wake up in paradise. The competition is better in Turkey, though.
The difference in the international play and WNBA play is really the skill level. In the WNBA every night you have to bring it. I really enjoy playing overseas because it gives you the chance to see things you maybe never would have, and really stay sharp for the season.
SLAM: Some people say you are best suited as a combo guard. The Shock can go a lot of ways with the third pick this year, where do you feel you play best in the backcourt?
IL: Well, I feel I am best suited at point guard. Some coaches may speak and say maybe she is a 2 because she score so well but I feel I am a point. I think the difference is I am a scoring point guard. There is a difference between a scoring point guard and a combo guard. I feel most comfortable with the ball in my hands and running the team, but regardless of where they put me I will play hard.
SLAM: This year you played without second overall pick Liz Cambage. Tell us a little about her impact for you ladies and what element do you feel she will bring back to your team for next year.
IL: Liz is a good player and we missed her inside presence. She brings a lot to the game. We know next year she will come back strong and help the organization.
SLAM: Tell us a little about the Ivory Latta Life Skills Academy for girls. What made you decide to start that program?
IL: This was something I always wanted to do. I really pushed forward with the idea for the camp and it was an amazing day for me. The turnout was great. Even near the back end of the camp we still had people coming in so it was just a great feeling.
The good thing about the camp is you not only learned good fundamentals about basketball, but you got the life skills training as well. I had a lot of people come out and talk, WNBA players and coaches come and let the kids know what it will take off the court to succeed.
SLAM: If you could teach a kid one life skill what would it be?
IL: To take advantage of every opportunity. Not everyone can go to UNC, or Duke, or Tennessee. Get into a school that wants you and showcase your skills. You never know because when you get to a program you can change the whole program.
SLAM: What do you feel young players are lacking now and thrive in now in comparison to when you were in high school?
IL: Well I think a lot of kids today are lacking in regards to fundamentals. It really starts with that they absorb in regards to TV. They see a guy on TV do it and they assume from the door they can do it. The problem with that is they don’t catch the little things that happen before the amazing play and they don’t want to put forth the time to practice as well. They feel it should come easy and they being fundamental is against the law [laughs].
I always tell everyone when I think of fundamentals I picture Tim Duncan. He is solid, knows how to move and knows how to operate on the floor. You can be a fundamental player and still be exciting. A lot of kids aren’t putting the time in to their craft. They become discouraged if they cant do a move on the first or second try. If they put the time in, their game will grow.
SLAM: Tell us a little about your shoe, the Nfinity sneaker. Tell us about the feel of the product and why you chose to play in them.
IL: Well, I love the red bottoms. I call them that because of the red sole, which I think is pretty cool. I really like the shoe because of the dynamics, great for up-and-down play. Women’s hips are wider so we are prone to knee injuries and things like that so you have to be mindful with your footwear and things of that nature. The shoe is very stable. It is also very light and I have always liked to wear light shoes that allow me to move with ease.
SLAM: Was having your own shoe something you dreamed about as a kid?
IL: It was really a dream come true. I think the other day it hit me when I walked into the camp and could give the kids my shoe. It feels good to have people that really appreciate what I do on the court and off the court.
SLAM: I believe you are a member of a golden era in the WNBA—young enough to remember watching Cynthia Cooper and Tina Thompson in her prime—and an active member in the growing field. The WNBA has come so far in regards to on the court and off the court activity. Where do you see if going next or where would you like to see it go next?
IL: I really feel like the WNBA is heading in the right direction. With the players coming in and the stars we have now, I think the league is really going forward like never before.
My only thing is I feel the pay could be a little bit better. We play hard and well, we just don’t play above the rim like the guys do, and that is no disrespect to the guys because I love the men’s game. I just really feel like we could get a little bit more TV time as well.
Regardless of the fact I feel we are heading in the right direction. I think the fan base is great and growing. I love the way the game is played and is coming more exciting.
SLAM: Many don’t know, but you battled with asthma as a child. Tell us about your bout with that and how you persevered through it.
IL: I remember when I was younger my parents would tell me that the doctors would say you really have to watch her ’cause anything could happen. My parents never held me back though, they would just be like, “Go outside and play, and if anything happens we will take you to the doctor.” They showed great faith and it allowed me to grow.
SLAM: Let’s talk a little bit about your children’s book. Why did you decide to write one and maybe some details of the direction content-wise of the book.
IL: The book is titled Despite The Height. I mean when you look at me I am not 6-4 or 6-2; I am 5-6 and I have accomplished a lot. I have a big heart and I love kids and I want to really give back and give advice. I have a passion to help young people grow and I thought it was a great idea to write a children’s book.
I wanted to tell them despite their height, family situation, religion, you could still be successful. You don’t have to be the tallest to be the best.
SLAM: OK, last one here. So you are the all-time leading scorer in South Carolina high school ball with over 4,300 points. That’s a lot of buckets. Was there a shot clock while you were playing down there? Did teams hold the ball?
IL: I don’t think there was a shot clock [laughs]. I just played my game.