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A whole Latta love

Earlier tonight, I watched a GREAT women’s basketball game. UNC and Duke slugged it out at Cameron Indoor Stadium, with UNC nabbing a 74-70 win. Both teams went in undefeated. Carolina came out as the only unblemished team in the nation.

Oh, and at this point, most writers would be compelled to tell you the irony of saying “Great women’s basketball game,” but I’ll spare you. I watched several dozen games while working at UNC sports information as a student. There were a number of good moments in there. I saw a girl dunk… witnessed Marion Jones playing basketball (holy crap!) at a speed unknown to anyone else on the court… listened to UNC assistant coach Andrew Calder scream a sarcastic “Great job! Oh, just a great job!” over and over… even flirted with a particularly cute NC State player at the scorer’s table as she was checking in (the last one leaves me both proud and aghast).

But back to tonight’s game. If you didn’t see it, you missed the play of UNC’s Ivory Latta, the most electric basketball player in America. Male or female, it doesn’t get any better than Ivory. She’s 5-5 and 130, in a sport where anyone under 6-0 is a wee little girl. Much like Allen Iverson, to whom she is most often compared, she uses a mixture of guts, guile and talent to overcome whatever physical shortcoming she has.

I’ve watched about a dozen UNC games in the past two years, and Ivory is starting to cross into rarified territory. I’m now putting her on par with Tracy Reid, the bombastic UNC player from the mid-90s. Reid (known lovingly and reverently as TReid to all of us in sports info) was also undersized, a 5-10 post player often squaring up against girls several inches taller. I always liked when she got good post position, waited for the pass, and when it didn’t come, she screamed. Loudly. More of a screech.

What Latta and TReid have in common is intensity. Sure, other players on the court are giving it “the old college try” (a phrase that’s actually right on the nose here), but Latta and TReid seem to burn with a consuming will to win. They simmer and smolder in calm times and erupt when the pressure intensifies. And both are able to take over games, when the bigger, stronger players aren’t able to match their intensity. It’s always a hoot to watch.

So, do yourself a favor and catch a UNC game this year. Ivory won’t let you down. Unless you’re a Dook fan. Then, she’ll dash your dreams. That’s my girl.

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