Difficult week ends with dejection for Oklahoma's Lattin
HOUSTON (AP) Oklahoma forward Khadeem Lattin sat on chair in a corner of the locker room with his head down, headphones on, already dressed. His bright crimson backpack, ready to go, sat on the floor in front of him.
Several times, the Houston native was surrounded by reporters and television cameras. He gave mostly one-word answers and tried hard to politely make them go away. It has been a bad week for the sophomore from Houston.
Lattin's grandmother died earlier this week, before she got to see him play in the Final Four in his hometown. The game was a huge disappointment for him and the Sooners, too. Lattin fouled out and scored only two points in Oklahoma's 95-51 loss to Villanova in the national semifinals Saturday night at NRG Stadium.
Lattin sprinted off the court and into the tunnel as soon as the buzzer sounded. He did not wait around to shake hands.
Lattin found out Wednesday night, not long after getting to Houston with his teammates, that his grandmother, Brenda Fair, had died after a long bout with cancer.
During the week, he kept his composure answering questions about his grandmother on his mother's side of the family and how they both couldn't wait for her to watch him play.
He wrote something on his shoes to honor her during the game. But after the Sooners were routed by Villanova, Lattin did not have much to say about his play or his emotions. ''I am very angry'' was one of his longest answers.
''He doesn't want to talk, y'all,'' said teammate Jamuni McNeace, who was sitting in a folding chair next to Lattin.
Lattin's grandfather on his father's side, David Lattin, played on the famous 1966 Texas Western team that won the NCAA championship. Those Miners were the first team to start five black players in the title game. Lattin and his former teammates and coaches were honored at halftime of the second semifinal between Syracuse and North Carolina.
The elder Lattin said he wanted to give his grandson some space.
''He's young and he's still finding his way,'' David Lattin said. ''He's human. We have to expect that sometimes humans don't perform as well as they can all the time. So he's getting better and he's learning. So perhaps next time he's in this position he'll play better.''
When he David Lattin does talk to Khadeem he said his message will be: ''Stay positive. Stay focused and get better.''
The Sooners lose some key pieces from this year's team, including star Buddy Hield, big man Ryan Spangler and guard Isaiah Cousins.
Khadeem Lattin will be expected to raise his game and go from complementary player to big-time contributor next season. But for now, his teammates are just looking to help him get through some tough times.
''That's my boy,'' Spangler said. ''I've taken him under my wing. We'll talk tonight and I'll get him going and he'll be fine.''
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
AP sports writer Kristie Rieken contributed to this report.