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High school basketball: North Central gets down to business in win over Ben Davis

12:00 AM, Jan. 04, 2013 EST

North Central senior Darius Latham (shown here Dec. 21 versus Park Tudor) led the Panthers to a 55-50 win over Ben Davis Friday night. Latham, an IU football recruit, finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds. / (Doug McSchooler/for The Star)

Darius Latham doesn't remember for sure how the nickname came about, just that his father tagged him with it during his freshman year of high school at North Central.

Big Business is what they call him, a fitting name for the 6-6, 285-pound Latham, a defensive tackle recruit for Indiana University. But considering the distance Latham has traveled since his freshman year as a locker room leader and on-court presence, perhaps those two words don't offer enough description. North Central coach Doug Mitchell offered a few more words on Latham after his 17-point, 14-rebound effort in a 55-50 Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference win over visiting Class 4A second-ranked Ben Davis on Friday night. "He's leading his team emotionally, verbally and effort-wise," Mitchell said. "We couldn't ask any more from him. I'm certainly glad he's back, not only for our sake, but for his sake. He's an entirely different type of leader than he's been before." It's difficult now to imagine Latham nearly didn't play his senior season of basketball. Originally committed to Wisconsin, he'd considered graduating early from North Central and enrolling for second semester college classes. He reconsidered after opening up his recruitment, which has proved to be a positive for a youthful North Central team that will take a four-game winning streak into Tuesday's Marion County Tournament first-round game, also against Ben Davis. "We have a bunch of young guys and even our older guys haven't played that much before this season," Latham said. "I knew I'd have to step up talk more. It's nothing too specific, just making sure guys know what they're doing and keep their heads up." With Latham's experience to draw from - he started as a freshman on a Class 4A state title team that included Terone Johnson (Purdue), Ronnie Johnson (Purdue), Patrick Ingram (Iowa) and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown) - North Central is starting to grow up. Freshman Eron Gordon and junior Michael Loggan combined to score 18 points in the third quarter Friday as North Central (8-3, 1-1) turned a 35-35 game into an eight-point advantage. Ben Davis (7-2, 2-1) never got closer than four points in the fourth quarter. "We talked about not fouling Latham and all we did was foul him," Ben Davis coach Mark James said. "You give him (9-for-10) from the free-throw line ... that's not good. We did a lot of stupid stuff tonight." Illinois State recruit Tony Wills led Ben Davis with 15 points, but was scoreless in the fourth quarter and was 4-for-17 from the field. A North Central team with so many question marks going into the season now looks like typical North Central, in large part due to Latham. Big Business. All Business. "I feel like we aren't going to lose any more games," he said.



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