- Associated Press - Thursday, March 31, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Lisa Litton still gets those looks when she talks about her son, Shawn Vanzant.

It happened again last weekend in New Orleans when a fan asked which Bulldog player was her child. Almost as soon as the words came out of Litton’s mouth, the other woman blurted out, “You’re kidding, right?”

Litton, who is white, and Vanzant, who is black, have gotten accustomed to the dropped jaws and dumbfounded stares over the past six years. To them, it really doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. She is Vanzant’s mother and he is her son, and there’s no doubt about that.

“I asked Shawn what should I say when people ask,” said Litton, who became Vanzant’s legal guardian while he was in high school. “Shawn said I shouldn’t say anything because, ‘If I say you’re my mom, that should be good enough.’”

Litton, her husband, Jeff, and their three biological sons _ Vanzant’s second family _ have certainly influenced how things turned out in Vanzant’s life.

From imposing curfews to teaching Vanzant individual responsibility, the Littons provided Vanzant with stability at a time he had seemingly lost everything.

Vanzant’s mother died before his second birthday.

His father, who is diabetic, became so ill he could no longer take care of the children.

Vanzant’s older brother has been arrested, convicted and incarcerated, and at age 16 when most high school boys are learning to drive, Vanzant was trying to survive. His grandmother, in Cleveland, offered to take him in. Vanzant wanted to stay with his friends in Tampa, Fla., but didn’t think he had much of a choice.

“I told Coach (Tommy) Tonelli that I was going to have to move and he said he’d take care of the situation,” Vanzant recalled Tuesday.

Lisa Litton dove in headfirst.

When Tonelli explained the predicament, Litton invited Vanzant to spend a few nights in her house. That invitation turned into a lifetime commitment when Vanzant’s father signed the guardianship papers over to the Littons.

It wasn’t always a perfect match.

Sure, Vanzant and Zach Litton had become close friends through basketball, and Lisa Litton knew Vanzant from chauffeuring him to and from games and practices. What she didn’t know was why her son’s friend always slept in the car.

At night, the teenager ran wild into the wee hours with no adults imposing rules or curfews, and Litton wasted no time in letting Vanzant know things would be different in her house.

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