UTEP Guard Jordan Lathon Embraces Big Moments in Quest for Success
"Believe you can and you're halfway there."
That saying has become a life motto for Jordan Lathon.
He's not afraid of big moments—and Miner fans have taken notice.
He showed it out of the gates as a freshman point guard last year, where he impressed the masses right away. Now as a sophomore point guard, Lathon is called to be one of the leaders on this talented UTEP men's basketball team.
"It’s fun with this team. You got a lot of new faces, a lot of transfers who’ve been waiting to play. You got some guys that are still trying to figure it out because they sat out a year," the Grandview, Mo. native explained. "I enjoy that. I enjoy relationships with people and having a connection with teammates. That’s something that I’ve always done."
His upbringing began in Kansas City, where his parents—Derrick Lathon and Torran Sayles—practiced family values on a daily basis. He has an older brother, Derrick Lathon Jr., and a sister, who is pregnant and is due in February.
It was his father who introduced him to the sport of basketball at a young age.
"My dad was a hooper but he wasn’t on a professional team. He played in Hoop It Up 3 on 3. He won championships in that in Saint Louis," Lathon said. "They actually went through El Paso and played in Mexico. So he’s played basketball all around the world. He put the ball in my hands."
Along with his dad, Lathon surrounded himself with high-level players that inspired him to be better and take basketball as serious as he does today. He even said that former Oklahoma State guard Victor Williams changed his life and taught him a lot about the sport at a young age.
"There are so many guys that I had a chance to be around and learn from. That’s how basketball became a thing for me. Seeing how those guys put in the work and how much time they put in," Lathon explained.
As a four-star recruit ranked as a top-150 player, fifth in the state of Missouri by 247sports.com, Lathon received a ton of college attention from schools like Iowa State, SMU, Butler, Louisville, Virginia Tech and Northwestern, which he initially committed to.
Despite the praise and attention he received in high school, Lathon always maintained a level head.
"I had to learn how to deal with it," he said. "I had to understand that it didn’t really mean much. Anybody can write anything about you. But if their words start becoming who you are, you can’t let anyone’s opinion about you judge who you think you are. I appreciate the offer but there’s so much more work to do."
A state championship and only one loss in his senior year was how Lathon ended his high school career at Grandview High School. Still, if you ask him how the state championship went, Lathon will probably brush it off by saying they demolished their rivals, Raytown South (81-63).
He expects to win and hates losing.
All of this led up to UTEP head coach Rodney Terry recruiting him out of high school.
With [Terry], it was the opportunity he presented me with," Lathon said. "To come in here and have a team I can play point guard for. I’ve been point guard since high school. It’s who I am. The fact that he allowed me to be a point guard made it easy to come here."
But what he didn't know is that his freshman season came with a lot of adversity. The Miners won just eight games last year and went winless on the road (0-13).
"It’s tough. You come from winning. You come from a season where you lost one game off a buzzer-beater. I hate losing. I hate losing more than I like winning," Lathon said. "The whole environment and feel of that taught you how to get off the mat. Especially me last year, I was down. We were in every game but could never take the next step and grow as a team. That’s one of the worst feelings when you are giving it your all and you aren’t connected."
"You can’t live in a win, you can’t live in a loss and I learned that the hard way. It was good for our growth."
All of his emotions were let go following the Miners' loss to Middle Tennessee (81-50) late in the season.
"I’ll never forget. It was at Middle Tennessee," he detailed. "My family had come to the game and drove to Murfreesboro (TN). It was tough because I was in the locker room and I see guys that aren’t bothered at all. Some guys are even smiling and some guys in a good mood, joking around. I’m just passionate about the sport, passionate about winning. That’s a pride thing. The fact that I just had to be around that for a year, it was almost tears of joy that I got through that. But also it was like ‘why did this have to happen?’"
It wasn't all gloomy moments for Lathon last year, though. He scored a game-high 26 points against Marquette early into the season. Who could forget his 32 points and buzzer-beater SportsCenter Top-10 finish against Rice?
On Marquette, Lathon said: "Going into that game, I had looked up everything about Markus Howard. I knew he was in a Christianity group. He was big in that and one of the faces of that. I found out that he enrolled in school early. I was completely invested in the matchup. That was one of my favorite games too. I wish we would've won. It would’ve done a lot for the UTEP community."
The work Lathon put in seems to have paid off in the long run. He is the only starter from last year that is starting on the Miners this year. He has become the true point guard for this team and continues to emerge as a leader.
Oh, and he knows his UTEP history too.
Lathon is fully aware of the '02-'03 team that won six games, coached by Billy Gillespie, and turned it around to a 24-8 season in '03-'04. He compared that team's win against the Harlem Globetrotters to this year's exhibition win against Texas Tech.
"We can resemble them in how much they won. That’s the goal," Lathon explained. "When we [beat Texas Tech], it wasn’t a surprise to us. We believed we were going to win because we prepared. That’s half of the battle. If you think you can do something, the other half is just doing. It was good for team morale."
This year, the 6-foot-4 point guard is averaging 6.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. He was critical in UTEP's win against NMSU (65-50) and hit the go-ahead shot with 27 seconds to help beat New Mexico (66-63).
Again, he's never afraid of the moment.
"I think it’s my character and who I am as a person," Lathon said. "I don’t ever let anyone make me mad or make me upset. I don’t get too high, don’t get too low. I just stay ready. I see myself doing these things. So I believe in myself to do it, so when I do it, I expected to do it. I have a vision in my head and have faith in that. I live for those moments."
"The city has embraced me and being who I am as a passionate player. I know at a home game when we get a stop defensively and get a couple of shots, I can throw my hands in the air and the whole crowd can come with that. It’s a great feeling. I love it. I love getting the crowd involved. Hopefully we can keep it going and get a sellout."
Hear the full conversation with Jordan Lathon by subscribing to the 600 ESPN El Paso Podcast channel.