You can feel the intensity in the gym. This is not a normal day for the Crestwood Prep women’s basketball team. Only 72 hours prior, they had lost their first OSBA game in nearly two full seasons, a run that included a title in 2019.
For this star-studded squad that has ruled over the league for the past two years, losing is not part of their vocabulary – everyone involved in this program wants to win.
And win a lot is what they’ve done.
Instrumental in the team’s success on the floor has been Toronto-native Latasha Lattimore. Standing at 6’5”, Lattimore presents a daunting physical matchup for any opposing team. However, watch her play for a short period of time and it becomes obvious that she is much more than the classic ‘big’.
Athletic and explosive, she is a nightmare in transition. Able to handle the ball, she’s able to create for herself as well as her teammates, using her advanced footwork to find a variety of ways to get to the rim.
Though she dropped 30 points in the loss to Lincoln Prep, Crestwood Head Coach Marlo Davis urged her not to be satisfied with the statistics.
“I spoke to her and told her ‘you had 30 points and we lost, so no one cares.’ There’s kids on the other team scored 6 points and to them, they feel like 30 points,” Davis says. “This is the greatest basketball lesson I feel she and our team will ever learn and I am happy it happened now and not in March.”
Today’s game against Capital Courts, a rematch of last year’s OSBA Final, represents an opportunity for Lattimore and Crestwood to redeem themselves right away.
The competitor in Lattimore comes out when describing the task at hand, explaining, “After that, I thought, ‘we can’t lose again’. That’s our first loss over 38 games, it hurts.”
Latasha has proven herself to be a big-game performer this season in the OSBA, including her standout performance against Lincoln Prep along with 27 points and 7 rebounds in handing Niagara Prep their only loss of the season.
Dominant performances such as these have led to significant interest south of the border. According to CROWN Scout Girls, after receiving numerous college offers, Lattimore has narrowed down her list to a ‘who’s who’ of ten top Division I programs that includes Kentucky, Michigan, and UCLA.
While many succumb to the pressure of the spotlight, Lattimore seems to take it all in stride. She’s had significant attention come her way for several years now after gaining a level of notoriety at the age of 13 after a video was released online showcasing her dunking talents while still in elementary school.
She recognizes that the spotlight is not a burden, in fact, it can be an opportunity not only for her, but others as well.
She explains, “I try to get my other teammates that don’t really have the spotlight on them – I try to bring them into my light so everyone else can see my teammates too.”
“As she’s gotten older, she’s actually started to understand recruiting more,” Davis adds. “She’s starting to understand that I am just going to continue going out there and be who I am. If it’s a great game, an average game, whatever it is, I am going to continue to try and get better every day, play for my team, and do the right things. All the attention, the accolades, and the recruiting will follow.”
For Lattimore, backing up her teammates and contributing to the team’s overall success means everything.
“My mentality is ‘my team needs me’,” she says. “Whatever I can do, I am going to do it so that my team knows I am there with them and I am actually trying to help out to get the win.”
She shares an extremely close relationship with the Lions’ starting point-guard and fellow 2021 grad class member Shayeann Day-Wilson.
Day-Wilson described the bond, stating “We have a very tight relationship, through thick and thin. We have our disagreements here and there, but at the end of the day we know it’s all love. Latasha and I have been playing together for 5 years. Every team you are supposed to have a guard and a big, and they always have that chemistry. That’s what we have, Tasha is like my sister.”
She’s also not shy in expressing the confidence she has in Lattimore, explaining, “Tasha just plays. She’s so athletic. It’s all natural talent and you can’t take that away.”
At Crestwood, it’s not always friendly between teammates. As Latasha describes, their practices can get very intense.
“When we practice, it’s like we’re not friends, we don’t know each other. Everyone has to compete.”
On this Friday afternoon against Capital Courts, the hard work pays off. Lattimore continued to establish herself as a clutch performer with a monster game of 33 points and 20 rebounds. Her and Day-Wilson really hit their stride as a duo in the second half, overcoming an early deficit in an 85-68 victory.
Count Coach Davis as a believer in Latasha’s ability.
“To quote the great Kobe,” he says. “‘Greatness is a habit, it’s not a one-day thing, it’s not an act, it’s who you are.’ I think, for her, that would be her next step, to be consistently striving to be the best version of herself.”
“I think she has the potential to be one of the greatest.”