‘A Great Opportunity’

Norway’s Ortman joins USA 20U deaf basketball team

Norway's Connor Ortman drives to the basket against Iron Mountain in a Feb. 27 district semifinal game. Ortman is playing on the USA 20U team in the Deaf Basketball Championships in Bolivia this fall. (Adam Niemi/The Daily News, File)

Connor Ortman is taking his basketball skills abroad this year.

The upcoming Norway High School senior is a member of the USA 20U Deaf Basketball team in the Deaf Basketball Championships in Bolivia.

The team will practice starting this summer in Washington D.C. and play in a nearly week-long tournament in Bolivia Oct. 8-14.

“It was just such a great opportunity just to be asked to represent USA,” Ortman said. “It was just a once in a lifetime opportunity and I wanted to hold onto that and do something a lot of people wouldn’t be able to have the chance to do.”

With Ortman joining the team, the family has had all the reason to celebrate. The Ortman family announced the news on social media last week.

Then, the unexpected death of 17-year-old Bryan Stanchina, who drowned last week during an attempt to save a friend in the Menominee River, sent the Norway community and surrounding area into shock. The Ortman family requested the publication of this article be delayed from last week out of respect for the tragic loss.

Ortman was one of Stanchina’s best friends growing up, having played sports together through the years.

“When I go down to Bolivia,” Connor said, “I’ll be keeping Bryan in my prayers and if we win the gold, it’ll be for him. I’ll be missing him greatly. He was just a great teammate and a great friend and a role model for everyone. It’s just sad to know he’s not there anymore. But he is above us and he’ll be watching us.”

Ortman has lived nearly his entire life with a cochlear implant in his right ear. He’s completely deaf in his left ear. And yet, he has become a leader for Norway High School’s basketball team.

Ortman was named by the UP Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association as this year’s recipient of the Gil Heard Courageous Athlete Award. He was also named to the All-UP Class ABC First Team. Ortman was also selected to the Mid-Peninsula Conference First Team.

Ortman’s father Steve said he and his wife Amy are proud of Connor’s accomplishments.

“Pretty exciting. Everything that he accomplishes is just incredible,” Steve said. “Anything with your country’s name on it that you’re playing for is a huge, huge honor. He’s very, very excited. We are too. What a great experience it’ll be for him.”

Steve said depending on a few factors, he and Amy will travel abroad to follow and watch the tournament.

“We’re going to try to go along with the team. I don’t know if that’s going to happen,” Steve said. “It’s all going to come down to how it’s set up and what it costs, to have the time off. It’s a 12-day trip basically.”

Connor said joining the team hasn’t changed his workout routine.

“Usually during this time I would be going in the weight room at 6:30 (p.m.) to get more agility and then on Wednesdays there’s yoga. I’ll be doing that to get my flexibility,” Connor said. “At night or during the day, when my dad can get time off work, we’ll go to the gym and work on my shooting, driving. At home, I’ll go in the basement and work on dribbling.”

Connor said he never thought basketball could bring him around the world.

“No I honestly never thought about it. To me, it was a great surprise,” he said. “I’m very happy that I was able to get an opportunity like this. I’m very happy. I want to thank my parents, friends, coaches, my school, just everyone.”