Stagg’s David Ortiz was named after the former Boston Red Sox slugger, but baseball has never been his sport.
Ortiz is on the football, basketball and track teams for the Chargers. As a junior forward, he is starting to make his mark this winter on the basketball court.
“My parents are big Cubs fans, but they love David Ortiz,” he said. “That’s the ironic part. I’m named after him, but I don’t play baseball.
“I love being around sports all the time, though. It keeps me busy and keeps me out of trouble.”
Ortiz caused some trouble Monday night for host Shepard, scoring 12 points off the bench to lead Stagg to a 61-44 nonconference victory in Palos Heights.
Connor Williams finished with 11 points and nine rebounds, Yousef Jarad had eight points and seven rebounds and Lebarion Gilmore added eight points for the Chargers (5-2).
Jermell Lymon led Shepard (2-5) with 17 points. Payton Crims chipped in with 10 points and Robinson Hale had 10 rebounds.
With mostly reserves in the game for Stagg, Ortiz scored four points to spark a 15-0 run that closed the first quarter with the Chargers ahead 19-6.
They led by at least eight points the rest of the way.
“My mindset is just to come in and give some energy off the bench,” Ortiz said. “I want to get some points, talk, play defense, rebound, do all that.”
Stagg coach Marty Strus appreciates how Ortiz has embraced coming off the bench to help his team.
“Only five guys can start, but we talk all the time about, ‘Don’t be the guy that wants to start. Be the guy who wants to finish,’” Strus said. “David has been really accepting of that role.
“He’s been our first guy off the bench in every game. He’s getting an idea of what we want to do defensively. He can obviously shoot the ball. He’s a great spark when he can come in and hit shots.”
Ortiz is starting to play big like his namesake. In fact, the baseball star’s nickname, “Big Papi,” has been heard around Stagg.
“A couple teachers at my school call me ‘Big Papi,’” Ortiz said. “It’s mostly the baseball coaches. It’s pretty cool, actually. I like it.”
Williams, a starter and one of the team’s leaders, appreciates what Ortiz provides when he goes to the bench.
“Dave’s a good player,” Williams said. “He does his role good. He’s that guy off the bench for us. He gives us a lot of momentum when he gets in the game and gets hot.”
Ortiz scored 10 of his points in the first half as Stagg built a 33-18 lead.
In the third quarter, Jarad produced six points while Williams and Gilmore each had five to help the Chargers pull away.
“We just had to stay locked in and play our game, not try to get sped up by their defense,” Williams said. “It’s just little things like that.”
Adding to the bench success, Domas Narcevicius scored seven points and Raymond Ruiz recorded six for Stagg.
“We played Friday at Bolingbrook and I thought our bench guys gave us a really good look in practice Thursday to get ready for that game,” Strus said. “You want to reward those guys at some point. You want to validate their hard work. We were able to get a lot of guys some minutes.”
Ortiz, meanwhile, continues to earn more and more playing time.
“My jump shot has improved, most importantly,” Ortiz said. “I’m playing more consistently. I’m boxing out guys, playing better defense and just being more vocal. I’m taking on a leadership role.”
Steve Millar is a freelance reporter for the Daily Southtown.