Gabrielle Ortiz has received Division I offers to play college basketball at the University of Wisconsin and Marquette.
When she got them, she was 14 and had yet to play in a high school game.
The list of DI programs that are interested in the Racine Prairie junior since has grown to 14, which is why many consider her to be the best player in the state.
The 5-foot-7 guard will take to the Resch Center court Thursday night when the Hawks face Colfax in a WIAA Division 4 state semifinal game.
Following two seasons in which the D4 field featured Eau Claire Regis standout and current Vanderbilt freshman Heather Bowe, Ortiz takes over the role as a centerpiece player at this year’s state tournament, regardless of division.
With last year’s D4 champion, Neillsville, moving up to the D3 field, the race for this year’s title is considered to be wide open.
Algoma was the top-ranked D4 team for most of the season and perhaps is considered a slight favorite in a stacked field that enters with a combined 98-6 record.
Three of the D4 squads feature at least one freshman starter in their lineup, including Cuba City, which is making its 14th state appearance and first since it won its fourth title in six years in 2010.
Should the Wolves get past an equally deep Cubans squad, they know a top talent like Ortiz is capable of powering a team to a title, as Regis’ Bowe did so two years ago against Algoma.
Ortiz is averaging 21.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game.
“She’s going to score on us, we know that, but we want to make her work for it,” Colfax coach Joe Doucette said.
Opposing coaches have described Ortiz as being an amazing ball-handler, which is something she probably developed while playing in tournaments against older kids as a youth.
She took an interest in sports at a young age because her father, Shawn, was unexpectedly forced into becoming a single parent for Gabbi and her older brother, Taylor.
Her mother, Lorie, died of sudden cardiac arrest at age 31.
She was holding then-7-month-old Gabbi when it happened.
While Ortiz has gotten plenty of attention for her athletic talents, Racine Prairie coach Melody Owsley said she has been nothing but a humble leader for her team.
She also said Ortiz isn’t focused on her college choice right now and likely will wait to make that decision until the fall.
“You dream about coaching a student of the game like a Gabrielle Ortiz,” said Owsley, who is in her 23rd season. “(She’s) definitely been the best player I’ve ever had in my program.”