Even more impressive than her 8.8 points per game average is the fact she is doing it at the college level without the benefit of being able to hear sounds the hearing world takes for granted. One of the biggest challenges she is overcoming to begin with is learning sign language.
“It is going pretty good so far. I am loving it at Gallaudet. The deaf culture is pretty different from the hearing world but I am getting there. I can sign fluently now. I am taking American Sign Language classes. It was difficult the first few weeks but the more I hang out with deaf people like my teammates the quicker I have been able to pick it up. I also have an interpreter in class and I will watch the teacher at the same time to pick up what they are saying. It’s getting easier.”
Latham laughed when she related the story of her first return to Cleveland since heading off to college and meeting her family at the airport.
“I hadn’t seen my family in five or six months. When I got in the airport there was my whole family looking at me. I was like, ‘Am I really back home?’ The first thing I did was start signing to them. I forgot I could talk to them. It is a habit,” she said with a laugh.
There are a couple of things the former Lady Raider has had to get used to with the biggest being a change from the hearing world to a deaf environment, not only in the classroom but on the basketball court.
“More work,” she deadpanned. “It’s not that bad. But learning the deaf culture is the biggest change,” she said. “College rules are different from high school and you have to learn them quick. The girls are also bigger. More people are on you and there is more pressure.”
Not that the pressure put on Latham has bothered her much. She credits playing against top talent in the Cleveland area and participating in the Deaf Olympics for helping her adjust to her new competition, particularly against the Lady Terrapins of Maryland.
“I didn’t have a lot of pressure on me. I am used to playing with D-I girls from around here. I think it has helped me to build confidence in myself,” she said. “The Deaf Olympics helped me get accustomed to the environment. The deaf culture is different. I think going to Poland definitely helped me to get ready for college.”
The Freshman Lady Bison also commented on the difference in crowd noise in hearing culture basketball games versus those of the deaf culture. Verbal sounds, sometimes involuntary, coming from deaf players are commonplace and merely part of the environment.
“The crowd at our games is very different,” she continued. “In the hearing world you hear the fans screaming your name and yelling at the ref sometimes. But in the deaf culture, it is just mainly screaming because it is hard for (players) to communicate. I see a lot of people (in the stands) wave their hands; that is applause since they can’t hear hands clapping.”
The long road trips taken by the men and women Bison have not been a huge change for Latham since she grew up making many trips while playing AAU basketball.
“It’s a long road trip sometimes but it’s more like traveling as a family. The boys travel with us because they play the same teams we do. We bonded quickly. It’s really fun. I love it. The biggest difference, I think is, we have back-to-back-to-back games away. A few weekends ago we had a game in New York. The next day we were in Pennsylvania. We are on the road constantly.”
Culturally, aside from the deaf culture, Latham has had several opportunities to investigate her new surroundings and found out there is a definite difference in the relatively rural local area and a big city environment.
“There is a big difference,” she said without hesitation. “Washington, D.C. We call it ‘Dirty City.’ The weather is crazy. It’s really cold and it’s too crowded for me. But I love the environment and the buildings are pretty. From our dorm you can see the Capital Building,” she related. “It’s pretty, but I’m not used to it being so crowded. Here (in Cleveland) it is calm and open.”
The crowd hasn’t stopped Latham and companions from exploring the nation’s capital. Museum trips and visits to restaurants are commonplace among the teammates/friends. Union Station is a particularly favorite grazing spot for the group of Bison.
“There are so many things we can do. It’s really fun,” said the affable college student.
Not only is Latham enjoying exploring the rich history of Washington while taking on new challenges in the classroom, on the basketball court the Lady Bison are enjoying an undefeated so far. After an exhibition loss to the University of Maryland, Gallaudet has run off 10 straight wins and sits atop the conference standings in the North Eastern Athletic Conference.
“We are having a really good year. We are 9-0 and are first in our conference in the NEAC. We are 28th in the nation in Division III women’s basketball. We have played the team that won the division championship last year and two teams that went to the NCAA tournament. We beat them,” said a smiling Latham while in town over the holidays. “I think we can make it all the way.”
Britny’s transformation will continue after her college basketball season is over. She has received invitations to participate in more big-time basketball that will take her to exciting and exotic locations.
“I recently got an e-mail from the USA deaf team and they want me to play for them in the fall. I got another e-mail from International Sports, a hearing team that wants me to play with them in Aruba in May. I will also be playing again for the USA team in the Deaf Olympics in Athens, Greece.”
Latham spent part of her time at home teaching family and friends ASL. “It was good to be home and spend the Christmas break with my family and friends. We had fun,” she said.
After enjoying her Christmas break, it was back to Washington and back to work for Britny. The Lady Bison returned to the court Saturday against conference foe and also undefeated State University of New York Institute of Technology.
The Bison remained undefeated on the season after a 66-59 victory over SUNYIT Saturday afternoon. Win or lose, however, the future remains as bright at Britny’s smile and the sky remains the limit for a young lady with the world in the palm of her hand.