NEW YORK (AP) Ivory Latta was humbled to win the Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award.
The Washington Mystics guard had been hoping to win it for a few years and was in tears when coach Mike Thibault told her she had won this year.
''It means the world to me. To be honest, I've been trying to win that award the past five years,'' Latta told The Associated Press after a shoot-around on Friday. ''It means a lot. I put my heart and passion back in my community, and the community in DC as well. I have a passion for kids and love putting smiles on their faces. I'm here to use the game of basketball to inspire people to do really great things. If I can be an inspiration to a kid to never give up, that's what I'm going to do the rest of my life.''
Latta's work off the court includes a recent autobiographical children's book titled ''Despite the Height,'' in which the diminutive guard described playing and thriving through the adversity of being an undersized (5-foot-6) basketball player.
''When you have an impact on your community and kids, it's a different feeling,'' Latta said. ''I see the inspiration I do have on kids and will continue that the rest of my life and be there for them and set an example for them.''
Latta grew up watching Staley play for the Charlotte Sting.
''She's an Olympic gold medalist and played in the WNBA,'' Latta said. ''She wasn't a big guard, either. To receive this award is an honor. I cried when coach told me. I wanted to win this award for a long time.
Besides her book, Latta took part in the Hoops for Troops tour in the Middle East in February. In March, she joined teammate Krystal Thomas in a series of clinics for children in the United Arab Emirates.
''Ivory is not only influential on the basketball court but she is also a dynamic leader in the community,'' WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a statement. ''Her passion and dedication for educating youth has been inspirational to watch and represents the best of the WNBA. It is an honor to recognize her with this award.''
Latta's teammate Elena Delle Donne won this award twice.
The WNBA will make a $10,000 donation to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation on behalf of Latta.
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