BY PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — When Northwestern senior Graham Ortmann learned last month that he’d been named a recipient of the Lilly Endowment, that was a major weight off his shoulders. The endowment, working with the Community Foundation of Howard County, awards full tuition scholarships to its recipients to attend any Indiana school of their choosing.
“It opened some options up and allowed some possibilities that weren’t possible before,” Ortmann said.
Ortmann found out in late March, and by mid April had made up his mind. This week he settled on Taylor University, where he’ll have a spot on the Trojans’ men’s basketball squad.
“I had a tryout kind of thing scheduled with them as a walk on to see how that would go,” Ortmann explained. “[The scholarship] opened it up where I didn’t have to worry about getting money from them or a scholarship, if they had a spot for me then I could play.”
Ortmann had been talking to Taylor assistant Brad Zarges about playing at Taylor. The scholarship made it an easy choice. The coaches “let me know they’d have a spot. I called them back and told them I’d love to play for them.”
The Northwestern senior found Taylor a good fit personally and athletically.
“I really liked the Christian aspect of the university,” Ortmann said. “I think it can challenge me academically, as well as providing the opportunity to play basketball there. I like what coach [Josh] Andrews is doing with the program. I’m glad to be a part of it and help them any way that I can.
“I liked that it’s a Christian university so Christ plays a part in the team, and the way they do things there. I think I enjoyed playing with the team too when I had the tryout.”
Ortmann led the Purple Tigers in scoring this season at 15.8 points per game, doing heavy damage as a wing shooter. He hit 70 3-pointers.
Northwestern coach Jim Gish said that at Taylor, what “Graham will bring to the table is that he’s a very quick learner, committed to the team concept so he’ll play any kind of role they ask him to play, and obviously can shoot the basketball.”
Gish emphasized that Ortmann made himself a key player with hours and hours of time working on his shot.
“Graham is one of the most loyal, committed young people that you’ll find,” Gish said. “He commits himself to whatever he does, whether it be academically engaged in school, athletically involved. He is one of those kids that doesn’t want to fall short of giving everything he has.”
Ortmann plans to study finance at Taylor.
“The [Lilly Endowment interview process] went well and I was blessed enough to receive the scholarship,” he said. “They had numerous applicants and I just want to thank the Community Foundation for giving it to me.
“It’s a big relief to have finally chosen a school. It’s a huge blessing that I have a chance to go to Taylor, and have a chance to play basketball as well.”