Oklahoma's Lattin follows grandpa's footsteps to Final Four
NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Khadeem Lattin has always admired his grandfather, David ''Big Daddy'' Lattin.
Now, he has a chance to match his grandpa's proudest accomplishment.
David Lattin's name went down in the history books in 1966 as part of the first all-black starting five to win an NCAA basketball national title. His Texas Western squad defeated Kentucky's all-white starting five in a game that helped change the way black people were viewed in the country. Fifty years later, Khadeem Lattin, a starting post player for Oklahoma, will play in the national semifinals Saturday against Villanova. If the Sooners win, they would play North Carolina or Syracuse for the title on Monday.
In a twist, the setting is Houston, home for both Lattins.
''You can't believe it,'' David Lattin, 72, said. ''You can't dream it. There's no way you can dream this. It's too big to be true. We are excited about it. We just want to see them go as far as they can go. If they win it, that would be too much.''
Khadeem has said how much his grandfather's legacy drives him, and how he wants to someday surpass his accomplishments. He is thankful for his opportunity and said he looks forward to the energy he'll draw from family and friends.
He also knows he doesn't have bragging rights yet.
''It means a lot to be close, but being close isn't enough,'' Khadeem said.
David Lattin said Khadeem has a chance to join him as a champion based on the way the Sooners have played down the stretch. Oklahoma has bounced back from losing three of four games during a rough stretch in February to win nine of 11.
''The Sooners are for real,'' David Lattin said. ''And they are playing 50 percent better than they were in the late part of the season. They're focused, and they seriously intend to win, I can tell that.''
David Lattin, a first-round draft pick in 1967, said he's especially impressed with Sooners guard Buddy Hield. The senior has averaged 25.4 points per game this season, and 29.3 in the NCAA Tournament.
''I've watched him in front of my eyes get better,'' David Lattin said. ''He's 30 percent better than he was when the season started. That's a lot for a guy like him.''
David Lattin has watched Khadeem grow with veteran players. Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Jordan Woodard and Ryan Spangler have started 104 consecutive games together.
''You have to learn,'' David Lattin said. ''He's definitely learning playing with these guys. Every night he goes on the floor with them, he learns something. The one thing that he's learning is how to win.''
David Lattin, who also played the post, said he sees Khadeem improving. In the NCAA Tournament, Khadeem has averaged 7.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks. He's been in some foul trouble, but he has been effective while on the floor, shooting 62.5 percent from the field and making himself an option for lobs for a team filled with jump shooters.
''I'm just excited for him, to see the way he's going, and that he's getting better and where he's headed.''
David Lattin will play a role in the weekend festivities, too. He said his 1966 team will be recognized Saturday at the Final Four.
''I think that's great,'' David Lattin said. ''I'm excited about it. It's really hard to believe that somebody's thinking about us after all this time. But it's great that we're being thought of and it's great for the country.''
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/CliffBruntAP .