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Khadeem Lattin's Improvement Has Played A Huge Role In OU's Success

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Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into last season, Lattin was just a true freshman with a lot of raw talent and athleticism. He was the nation's 72nd highest rated player coming out of high school according to 247Sports. The 6'9" center from Houston, Texas was Oklahoma's sixth man for much of his freshman season but never really made a big impact. He had his moments where he'd show his blocking and rebounding skills but never produced much offensively (just 2.0 ppg his freshman season) as he lacked a jump shot of any kind. He shot 43% from the field, which isn't a bad stat but most of his field goals were layups or dunks.

He also never really showed a lot of improvement from the beginning of the season to the end, which was a reason of concern for Sooner fans as he was expected to start his sophomore season after the departure of TaShawn Thomas.

After a rough opening game as a starter where he played just seven minutes and recorded three fouls, Lattin has now emerged into a great defender and solid contributor on the offensive end over the course of this past season. He's had games where he's come up big on defense (8 blocks vs Texas Tech), rebounding (14 rebounds at Kansas), and scoring (17 points vs Hawaii) to help OU achieve a no. 1 ranking and a shot at a Big 12 title. Lattin understands his role on both sides of the ball and has fit in very well with Oklahoma's "big four" of Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield, and Ryan Spangler.

He's the only underclassmen in the starting lineup, but his patience on defense when it comes to rim protection and shot selection on offense has been phenomenal. He's shooting 59.6% this season and 2.6 blocks per game this season, which is great coming from a player who many thought would be the weak link in the starting five. He's not considered that now, which helps Oklahoma's star players perform even better with less pressure on them.

This was evident in the LSU and West Virginia games, where Oklahoma's guards led the way in scoring but it was Lattin who had the big plays at the end to win the game.

Here's his block at LSU that sealed the win :

And here is him with a big tip-in on the offensive side of the ball to win the game against West Virginia :

Based on these couple of plays, it's safe to say Oklahoma wouldn't be where they are today without Lattin. His late game heroics have made him a player to watch out for, which makes the big four's job a lot easier.

The big man under the basket has blended well with the upperclassmen this year, which is why Oklahoma has lost just two games this season. Buddy Hield can keep Oklahoma in a game with any team in the country, but the supporting cast will be what decides just how far Oklahoma can make it in March. If players like Lattin can keep making big plays down the stretch, then the Sooners have a great chance at making a lot of noise in the NCAA Tournament.