Tulsa's Ivory Latta shoots over Minnesota's Candice Wiggins during a recent game at the BOK Center. JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World
Tulsa Shock guard Ivory Latta played her entire college basketball career without knowing her father had Parkinson's disease.
No one would tell her.
"I was always saying, 'Man, it's amazing how my momma and daddy were at all my home games,' " said Latta, a six-year WNBA veteran and former two-time All-ACC performer at the University of North Carolina.
Later, she learned her parents had a dual purpose for traveling regularly from their home in South Carolina to the Chapel Hill, N.C., campus. The second was for her father, Charles, to undergo treatments and check on medications used in controlling the disease.
"I'd call to see if they were coming up, and my momma would say, 'We're on the road.' In actuality, they were already in town," Latta said.
About three years ago, she finally learned about her father's affliction, which includes shaking, slowness of movement and slurred speech.
As a means of coping, she became a national spokeswoman for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation, which raises awareness for the disease, which attacks the central nervous system.
"It's been tough, because I remember him as I was growing up and he didn't do anything wrong. He took care of his family, he provided for other people in the community, and to see him the way he is right now is very painful," she said.
Charles Latta won't be with his daughter on Father's Day as the Shock hosts the Phoenix Mercury for a 3 p.m. tipoff at the BOK Center. And that's probably good, she said.
"As it happens, I put momma and daddy on a cruise. I wanted to do that for them. I won't have him here, and it's kind of a good thing, because if he was here, it would be very emotional for me," she said.
Fathers will be admitted free Sunday as the Shock tries to avenge an 89-87 home loss to the Mercury on May 22 and win for the first time in 2012 after nine straight losses. Phoenix has won all 10 meetings since the Shock moved to Tulsa in 2010.
The 5-foot-6 Latta averages 13.1 points per game in her third Shock season, second on the team behind Temeka Johnson's 13.7-point average.
She has become a fan favorite for her boundless effort on the court. She once described herself as the "Energizer bunny."
She learned of her father's illness almost by mistake. While dining with her parents in Chapel Hill about three years ago, she noticed that he was shaking as if he was freezing and couldn't get warm.
"My momma (Chenna) said, 'He's all right,' and I was like, 'No, he's not. Just tell me what's wrong.' I'd never seen him shaking that way, and he was walking very slow and we had to help him in and out of cars," Latta said.
"And then they finally told me, and I was like 'Oh, my God.' And that was one of the reasons I wanted to become an advocate for Parkinson's disease, because I'm learning more about it now. I know, for example, that getting exercise helps to control the effects."
Even by phone, Latta said she can always cheer up her father or pull him out of a haze by getting him to talk about sports or something they both might have seen on television.
"He has his good days and bad days, but I know how to get him back. I won't let him have bad days," she said.
Parkinson's disease belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. The four primary symptoms of Parkinson's are tremor, or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face; rigidity, or stiffness of the limbs and trunk; bradykinesia, or slowness of movement; and postural instability, or impaired balance and coordination.
As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks.
- National Institutes of Health
Mike Brown 918-581-8390
Original Print Headline: Cause close to Latta's heart
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