Latta on the Rise

It’s been an up and down year for Mystics guard Ivory Latta. She’s dealt with adversity both on and off the court, but thanks to her strong will and a supportive organization, she’s landed in a great place and has the Mystics positioned to make another playoff appearance.

Latta had her struggles through the first half of the season, but anything on the court was dwarfed by the scare she had off it, which involved biopsies and talk of one of the most dreaded words: Cancer.

Speaking about her experience, Latta said that she could not recall a time in her life when she shed so many tears and added in her interview, “It humbled me a lot.”

But as many who have gone through cancer scares know, it’s very difficult to go through the process alone. She spoke about how supportive head coach Mike Thibault was, saying, “Coach was amazing. He was like my father. He said ‘I’m with you 100%.’”

After finding out the tumor was benign, Latta has become an advocate off the court, calling for others to participate in regular checkups. On the other hand, she has also been, once again, one of the main leaders on the court.

She has led the Mystics in scoring all season, but prior to the All-Star break she was struggling with her shot, shooting 35% from the field and 33.6% from beyond the arc.

However, since the All-Star break, Latta has shown why she represented the Eastern Conference as an All-Star by going on a three-game tear that earned her Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors, her first of the season and the fourth of her career. In those three games, Latta averaged 20.3 points per game on 56.4% shooting and an unreal 50% from beyond the arc, and as a result, the Mystics were able to extend their winning streak to four before the team dropped a heartbreaker in overtime in Madison Square Garden against the New York Liberty.

Latta credits increased confidence for her recent streak saying after last Friday’s win over the Tulsa Shock, “I definitely have the ball in my hand more than I did [in the beginning of the season] and it’s all about have that confidence in myself and getting more shots up with [arrogance].” This, of course, wouldn’t be a Mystics quote without the player deflecting praise onto others. Latta cited the help she’s received from the entire team, from working with assistant coach Eric Thibault to improve her shot to her teammates finding her in open situations.

Going beyond the recent stretch, Latta has been instrumental to Washington’s success the entire season. When Latta does well, the Mystics do well. In this season’s 13 wins, Latta has averaged 14.2 points per game, and in the 14 losses, Latta has averaged 10.5 points. The numbers become even starker when one excludes the outlier at the beginning of the season when Latta scored 25 points in the season opening loss against the Minnesota Lynx. Without that performance, Latta drops to 9.4 points per game in this season’s losses.

With just over two weeks left in the season, Washington will need to be clicking on all cylinders in this tight Eastern Conference race. Moreover, it’s clear that the Mystics will need Latta in her All-Star form in order to make a formidable playoff push. But after enduring a cancer scare, it seems silly to think that Latta won’t be up for the challenge.