Ortiz eyes spot on Puerto Rican Olympic team

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As a senior, Deanna Ortiz entered this season with the mindset that this would be her last opportunity to play basketball at a high level. Much to her surprise, Ortiz will now have a chance to continue playing basketball after her collegiate career after receiving an invite to try out for the Puerto Rican Women’s National Basketball team in April.

“It’s a huge honor that I would have never even expected, but once I found out I was really excited. It’s an opportunity that I don’t know I ever imagined getting,” Ortiz said.

While born in Chicago, Ortiz’s grandparents are both Puerto Rican. This qualified her to be invited for tryouts in San Juan.

During midterm week, scouts from the team approached women’s basketball coach Doug Bruno expressing interest in Ortiz. Her threat as a reliable 3-point shooter and her large basketball IQ could help a team that has never had the opportunity to compete at the Olympic Games before. After meeting with the scouts, Ortiz accepted their invitation to compete for a spot on Puerto Rico’s National Team.

Ortiz thinks that it could be her play in the Big East conference that attracted interest in her.

“Playing in a big conference like the Big East, I feel like they had an opportunity to see us play pretty often, “she said. “I think just our style of play, running and keeping a fast pace, probably attracted them.”

Ortiz will be one of 20 other athletes competing in April for a spot on the team of 12. If successful, she will join the team to prepare for the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Turkey. Puerto Rico will be part of 12 teams to compete for one of the five spots in the 2012 London Olympics. This will be the first time Puerto Rico has the chance to compete in the tournament, after earning an invitation by taking Gold in the 2011 Pan American Games.

It’s a special chance to be part of history, but first, Ortiz must make a spot on the team. For Ortiz, she’s confident that she can make it.

“I’m just going in with the mentality that I’ve played in the Big East, so I’ve played against the best. I’m just hoping that that experience gives me some sort of advantage.”

With a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity looming, some might say that it could be a distraction for the Blue Demons in the last stretch of the season. The No. 21 ranked women’s basketball team has posted a strong record of 20-8 and could make another run during March.

Like most athletes, Ortiz is taking it one game at a time and not focusing on the months ahead.

“There’s not really a lot of time for any of us to be thinking what we’re going to be doing months from now,” she stated. “Right now, all I’m thinking about is Louisville on Saturday.”

Ortiz would be the second Blue Demon to compete in the Olympics. Alumni Mfon Udoka was the first as a member of the Nigerian National Team in the 2004 Athens Olympics. Ortiz was just honored to get the invite.

“I really think it’s going to be an amazing experience.”