By David Cohen
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
TCU senior center Latricia Lovings has 180 blocks since the start of the 2012-13 season, the most in the country during that time. That number is pretty impressive, but even more so for the fact that basketball was not her primary focus as a high school senior.
Lovings made her mark on the volleyball court at Paschal High School in Fort Worth, which is walking distance from the TCU campus. There, Lovings was named the District 3-5A Outstanding Blocker as a senior in the fall of 2009, a foreshadowing honor for a different sport if there ever was one.
“I was recruited by a couple of schools for volleyball, and some were top five in the nation at the time,” Lovings said. “TCU looked at me as well.”
Lovings lettered three years in basketball at Paschal before taking her senior year off. While she would not be suiting up for the purple and white Panthers, she would continue to boost her appeal to college coaches, especially TCU head coach Jeff Mittie, ironically, as a member of the AAU Fort Worth Frogs.
TCU’s roster in the 2011-12 season featured six Horned Frogs from Fort Worth, including the then-sophomore Lovings. The familiarity was certainly there, she said.
While with the AAU Frogs, Lovings also played alongside two future college teammates from cities in opposite directions of TCU in Yukon, Okla., native Meagan Henson and Waco product Delisa Gross.
Henson, who practiced at home and saw her team at tournaments due to her long commute to North Texas, gave high praise to her longtime teammate.
“I don’t think you would call it rusty, but you could tell she was a volleyball player,” said Henson, in terms of Lovings only playing on the AAU team the year before she got to TCU. “After her skills started progressing, we knew she would be something special.”
Lovings’ skills progression in high school was one thing, but her maturity and general athleticism before and after her arrival to college is worth noting, TCU athletic trainer Valerie Tinklepaugh-Hairston said.
“When [Lovings] first got here, after not having played he senior year, I don’t think she really knew what to expect,” she said. “I remember her first workouts when she wasn’t able to make it through the entire thing. Now, she is a leader and her team looks to her for advice.”
The numbers do not lie, either. As a freshman in 2010-11, she played double-digit minutes in just 16 games, yet led the team with 21 blocks. The next season, she rejected 89 shots to rank No. 25 nationally.
As a junior this past year, Lovings swatted 109 shots that came her way to finish third in the country. This season, she set a new career high of 10 blocks in a Dec. 4 win over Stephen F. Austin and blocked seven more during a Jan. 19 victory over Texas, the Horned Frogs’ first over the Longhorns in school history.
Lovings currently ranks fourth in the nation for blocks and has recorded such a stat in 58 consecutive games, only four away from tying the school record.
The physical side of being a Big 12 student-athlete is well documented. Lovings not only overcame tough odds to go from hardly any basketball to an elite Division I defender, but she also utilizes her criminal justice major to the fullest extent.
“I am an intern at the Tarrant Area Juvenile Probation office,” Lovings said. “I work at the southwest campus on Hulen [Street] and we go to all the middle schools and high schools around TCU. I follow them and basically see what they do everyday and help kids who are on probation stay out of trouble.
“I have a huge heart for kids who are troubled and that’s kind of what I want to do after I graduate. The internship is helping and it’s fun to see what I can do after school.”
Another interesting component to Lovings’ brand off the court is the manner in which she goes about her business. Tinklepaugh-Hairston said that what makes Lovings’ community service so special is that it is not for school or any other requirement.
“Over the summer, I fed the homeless in the morning, and then I went to the Tarrant Area Food Bank in the afternoon. On Wednesday nights, I went to BackPacks for Kids which helps public school kids on the public food program. We gave them backpacks of food for over the weekend since some didn’t have any due to situations at home.”
Lovings’ life after TCU is still up in the air, as she has to take one more class in the fall before she can graduate in December.
“After that, I will make my decision to continue playing or apply for a job,” she said.
Henson is the only senior besides Lovings to have been with the Horned Frogs since her freshman year, and she can essentially sum up the TCU center in two words.“She’s fabulous.”