Family pulled Loyola center Jordan Latham back to Baltimore
Former City star transferred from Xavier to be closer to his autistic brother
Loyola basketball player Jordan Latham (City), left, poses for a picture with his brother, Myles, who has autism. (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore Sun / December 13, 2012)
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Pictures of red, yellow and blue puzzle pieces surrounded a simple message Jordan Latham read whenever he glanced at his wrist: I love someone with autism.
As the former City center labored through his freshman season at Xavier two years ago, the bracelet kept him connected to home. An identical blue bracelet served the same purpose for Jordan's father, Orlando Latham, as he longed for his family from an Army base in Iraq.
Back in Baltimore, Rhonda (Jordan's mother) wore the same bracelet, as did Joseph Bundy, her teenage nephew who came to live with the Lathams in their West Baltimore home after his mother -- Orlando's sister -- died in 2007.
And then there was Myles, an affable computer whiz with a love for watching movies and singing in talent shows at his high school in Northeast Baltimore. Myles' yellow bracelet displayed a message different from those worn by the rest of his family members: I have autism.
The close relationship between Jordan, 21, and Myles, 19, was a major reason the elder Latham brother left Xavier a year-and-a-half ago to transfer to Loyola. Jordan's return to Baltimore has benefited the reigning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions -- he's the starting center on a Greyhounds team that has matched the best start in program history (9-3) -- and most importantly, his family.
"Were you happy when I came home?" Jordan asked Myles during a trip back to his childhood home this month.
"Yes," Myles said confidently, a substantial grin breaking out across his face as Jordan nodded approvingly.
A brain development disorder characterized by struggles in communication, social interaction and repetitive behaviors, autism affects more than 2 million people in the United States alone, including approximately one out of 54 boys. Myles speaks with assurance, but the words come out "in bits and pieces," Jordan said. "He knows what he's talking about, but he can't really say everything like he really tries to."
But for as long as Jordan can remember, the relationship between Myles and him has transcended simple chatter -- even during the year when they were 500 miles apart.
The two youngest Latham brothers -- Orlando Jr., 32, lives in Beltsville with his wife and two daughters -- were inseparable growing up. Jordan would do his best to include Myles in every activity he could. When Myles played baseball at his first school, Jordan would run around the bases with his younger brother after a hit.
"We were real close. Going outside together, dressing up, dressing alike, spending time with each other. This is my biggest fan right here," Jordan said. "Wrestle, play-fight, everything like that. Everything like normal brothers would do."
From a coordination standpoint, Myles was like any other elementary school-aged kid. But the youngest Latham sibling's condition was evident in his struggles to communicate with others. He didn't start speaking until he was 7.
"Some [autistic] kids don't speak at all, not because they have a disability, but because they don't want to talk to adults," Rhonda said. "We used to always ask Jordan when they were by themselves, 'Is Myles talking to you?' He would say no."
As Jordan grew into one of this city's best youth basketball players, Myles became a fixture at Mount Royal and other local gyms. When Jordan's teammates asked about his younger brother, he offered a simple explanation about autism and never had to address it again.
"People I grew up with in AAU, everybody fell in love with him," Jordan said.
Added Rhonda: "All of Jordan's basketball friends, to this day, they know Myles. Everybody knows Myles. Myles has always traveled with us. He probably has been on even more basketball trips than me."