By Max Goodwin
A conversation about basketball with Jordan Lathon leaves no doubt that he loves the game, and he cares about his community too. Especially in the circumstances of this particular conversation, as Lathon is taking a break during his shift as a Doordash delivery driver on a hot Friday night in late July.
Lathon hands off another order and the customer likely has no idea their food was delivered by a state champion and division 1 college basketball player at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
“I just started Doordashing this week,” Lathon said.
The money that Lathon earns will go towards buying T-shirts for a free back-to-school basketball camp for boys and girls entering 2nd through 12th grade at Grandview High School on August 21. The camp was Lathon’s idea.
Lathon, who is double majoring in business marketing and supply chain operations, watched as the NCAA suspended rules that prohibited college athletes from selling the rights to their name, image and likeness. He and every other college athlete in the nation can now profit from sponsorships, autograph signings, starting a business, teaching lessons or camps, and more while maintaining their eligibility to compete in collegiate athletics.
This camp is the first time Lathon has used his name for something that the NCAA may have called a violation before. While Lathon hopes a sponsor can be found to help with the cost of providing free T-shirts and school supplies to campers, he’s doing the work himself just in case that doesn’t come through.
“I don’t really have anybody sponsoring the camp,” Lathon said. “That’s why I’m Doordashing…It’s looking like 160, 170 kids. I’ve got some quotes on T-shirts, they want $10 per shirt, I’ve got some that say they want $7 per shirt. But you can do the math, it starts adding up. I said I wanted to have a free camp and this is part of having a free camp.”
For years, Grandview graduate Alec Burks, who currently plays shooting guard for the New York Knicks in the NBA, has put on a free summer camp at Grandview High School. When reached by the Martin City Telegraph in April, a representative of Burks said he would take a year off from hosting the camp this summer due to uncertainty caused by the Covid pandemic. On August 2, the New York Knicks re-signed Burks to a 3-year contract for $30 million.
Burks is one of the players that served as an inspiration to Lathon when he was a kid. Lathon’s senior year, 2018, Grandview went 28-3 and won the first basketball state championship in the school’s history.
“I’ve got the championship ring in my living room,” Lathon said. “You always remember how much you put into it and how much you sacrificed to get to that point. But it’s something I’ll never forget, like ever. And I did it with a group of people that I grew up with.”
Lathon was the team leader of that championship run, as he averaged 13 points, 7 rebounds, and 7 assists per game, and was named to the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association (MBCA) All-State team. But he makes sure to emphasize the end of that quote, that he did this with a group of friends he grew up with.
With those friends, he paid attention to the basketball players who were older than him. He would finish practice and go with his friends to watch some of their older brothers play. It meant a lot to him to win the first state title in school history because he knew how talented some of those who had not accomplished it were.
“Knowing where I come from, Grandview, Missouri, when I was growing up you had high-level basketball players coming through there,” Lathon said. “I knew I wanted to be the same kind of inspiration to kids in the area.”
The newly hired athletic director at Grandview High School Justin Remington said it was unexpected when one of the first moves he had to make in his role this summer was to hire a new basketball coach after former coach Reggie Morris left. Remington thinks Grandview found a coach that can maintain the winning tradition, and they didn’t have to look far for Prentes Potts, associate head coach of Avila University men’s basketball.
Potts has more than a decade of coaching experience at the high school and college levels. Remington said it was Lathon who reached out to the school with the idea for a back-to-school camp.
“We’ve got coach Potts coming in brand new, so it’s an opportunity for him as well, for them to work together,” Remington said. “It was really Jordan’s idea for the back-to-school camp.”