RACINE — It didn’t take long for Gabbi Ortiz to get a chance to advance her basketball career.
Minutes after the Women’s National Basketball Association Draft was completed on Thursday night in New York, the Oklahoma University senior guard got the call.
The Racine native and graduate of The Prairie School has been invited to training camp of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks. She has signed a training camp contract and will join the team in Los Angeles for the beginning of camp April 29.
After the three rounds of the WNBA Draft were completed, opportunity rang.
“They called right away after the draft was finished, and I took them right away,” Ortiz said by phone from Norman, Okla. “I was hoping for an opportunity anywhere that came up. When it comes to the WNBA, you’re grateful for any opportunity.”
She will leave for Los Angeles a few days before camp to get acclimated.
Ortiz knows the pace of play is much faster in the WNBA and also knows that training camp will be nothing like she’s done before.
“All I keep hearing is to be in shape, and my goal is to be in shape,” Ortiz said. “The (WNBA) game is so much faster from college, so I have to be in shape and be ready to learn.
“From what I’ve heard from my friends in the league, once the 29th hits, you’re getting after it. You’re doing two-a-days and practicing with the team every day.”
Great season with Sooners
Ortiz will be one of 15 to 20 players in camp. In addition to the Sparks’ three draft choices Thursday — Russian center Maria Vadeeva in the first round, Florida State forward Shakayla Thomas in the second round and Czech center Julia Reisingerova in the third round — two other undrafted players were signed by the Sparks.
Ortiz, who was the 2015 Big 12 Conference Freshman of the Year, is coming off a spectacular senior season with the Sooners, who finished 16-15 and made the NCAA tournament.
She was the only player on the roster to start all 31 games, had career-high averages of 12.4 points and 5.0 rebounds per game and led the team in 3-pointers (84), 3-point field goal percentage (.385), free-throw percentage (.929) and minutes per game (36.5). She also led the Big 12 in average minutes (36.5) and 3-pointers per game (2.7).
She scored in double figures in 20 games, with a career-high 31 points with eight 3-pointers against South Florida on Dec. 9, and a week later scored 25 points (seven 3-pointers) against New Mexico.
Ortiz, who turns 22 on Sunday, said getting this shot at the pros is what she has been working for since she began playing basketball as a kid.
“You dream for an opportunity like this and hope to get the opportunity to play at the next level,” she said. “I’m extremely grateful for Los Angeles for giving me a chance to compete for a spot. I couldn’t be more thankful. I’m taking a step in the right direction.”