By Micah Thompson
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
Many families have had their names sprinkle the pages of sports history books. The Mannings (Archie, Peyton and Eli) are often regarded as the first family of football, and the Williams sisters (Venus and Serena) have taken over the world of tennis. But few family stories are quite as unique as the one owned by Khadeem Lattin, a freshman forward on the University of Oklahoma men’s basketball team.
Lattin’s grandfather, David “Big Daddy” Lattin, was the starting center for the Texas Western men’s basketball team that upset Kentucky on March 19, 1966, in the NCAA championship game. Texas Western (now UTEP) was the first team to ever start five African-American players, an occurrence which inspired the Disney movie, Glory Road.
“When I watched the movie with him, he paused it and explained some of the stuff that they edited out or didn’t put in there, and he explained things that they didn’t explain in depth,” Khadeem Lattin said of his grandfather. “It was powerful. For someone to go through that for something that he loves is amazing. It’s made me appreciate it more.”
While his influence to play the game came from his grandfather, Lattin’s knowledge and true love for basketball came from his mom, Monica Lamb-Powell. Lamb-Powell competed collegiately at Houston and USC before netting three WNBA titles during her three-year stint with the Houston Comets. Lattin said it was early childhood games with his mom that gave him his competitive edge.
“My mom is a cobra in every sense of the word. She’s a competitor. She’s vicious,” he said. “When we were playing games we could never play for fun. It’s always cutthroat and win. She never took it easy on me and I love that. I am who I am because she never took it easy on me.”
Lamb-Powell said she enjoyed her time playing with her son, but their one-on-one games stopped before he got to high school.
“If I tell the whole truth, Khadeem and I are both very, very competitive, and so we stopped competing against each other years ago when he came very close to beating me,” Lamb-Powell explained. “Being the competitor that I am, I was never going to let that happen. That was the last time we played against each other, and he must have been in about seventh grade.”
After spending nearly two years attending school and playing basketball at Canarias Academy in the Canary Islands (off the coast of Spain), Lattin finished his high-school playing career with Redemption Christian Home School Academy, where he was named a first-team All-Texas Christian Athletic League All-State selection and was rated as the nation’s 72nd overall recruit by 247Sports.
Being a high-profile recruit can be tough. Many different schools attempt to enlist an athlete’s talent, but Lamb-Powell said she was able to share with her son some of the things he would go through while being recruited.
“Most student-athletes don’t necessarily have that experience of having a parent who was a student-athlete to lean on,” Lamb-Powell said. “That lent itself to some great conversations and helping to find out what his expectations were. Khadeem didn’t grow up going, ‘Oh, OU is where I’m headed,’ but he dealt with the whole recruiting process very intelligently and very objectively.”
Playing Division I basketball as a true freshman can be rough. The game is physical and fast-paced, and an athlete has to make quicker and better decisions because of that. The transition can be difficult, and some true freshmen never master it. With seven games under his belt, Lattin is excelling at OU. The 6-9 forward has registered 20 rebounds in 52 minutes of playing time. But Lattin said the transition has been far from easy.
“The whole freshman process of growing has really been a rollercoaster,” Lattin said. “Going from being that man in high school to kind of taking a step back and being a role player and finding how to be productive on the team is a big deal. Taking advantage of every opportunity because you don’t know when you’re going to get the next one is a big deal. It’s something that I’ve really struggled to master, but it’s something that I feel I’m getting much better at.”
OU junior forward Ryan Spangler, who led the Big 12 in rebounding last year, said he likes what he’s seen so far from Lattin.
“He was a little nervous here at first, but every day you see him get better,” Spangler said. “He’s going to be really good by the time he graduates if he keeps working. And he has a good work ethic. He’s got everything he needs to be great.”
With more than half of his freshman season left and three more years of college basketball, Lattin sees his time at OU as an opportunity to make a name for himself. The name his family has given him is important to him, because he knows where he comes from. But now is the time for him to break loose from his family’s story so he can create one for himself.
“People always say, ‘Hey, your grandfather is this and your mom is this.’ And don’t get me wrong, I love that. It’s cool,” Lattin began. “I love my lineage. But I really want to stand on my own two feet and have people ask me about the things that I do and the things I’ve done myself and earned, and I know that I’m getting very close to doing that; just being my own person and having my own name in the history books like they did.
“I’m looking to really do things that they didn’t do and that they couldn’t do because I know that I can,” Lattin continued. “Now it’s just putting everything together and really saying, ‘Hey look, watch me be great. Watch me outdo you guys.’ And every day they are both pushing me to do that.”
If he’s able to accomplish his goals, Lattin’s distinct family story will become even more unique.