Starting a purposeful fire or employing a strong rush of water — Sarah Mortensen will do just about anything to cleanse herself of the stench of losing.
Mortensen, a 6-1 freshman wing on the Miami Hurricanes’ women’s basketball team, was only 14 when she lost a big game in her native Denmark. Given a T-shirt as a consolation prize, she found a match and burned it.
After another heartbreaking loss, Mortensen was even more disgusted with defeat.
“When I got home, I went into the shower with my uniform on,” she said. “I was [angry]. All that ‘loser’ sweat, I wanted to get it out with cold water.”
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Mortensen was such a hot shooter in high school last season that opponents were probably tempted to douse her with cold water in an attempt to cool her off.
While playing for state finalist Long Island (New York) Lutheran as a senior, she shot 57 percent from the field, outstanding for someone whose forte is making three-pointers.
It’s no wonder she was called the Larry Bird of Long Island girls’ basketball.
But here’s the thing: Sarah’s not the only sweet-shooting Mortensen who has arrived in Miami this year.
Her brother, Daniel, a 6-8, 245-pound sophomore forward, left Division I Wright State and landed at Division II Barry University, where he figures to be in the Bucs rotation.
Daniel, whose Barry team will play an exhibition game against the Hurricanes in Coral Gables on Wednesday night, said he didn’t necessarily follow Sarah.
“We don’t really care if we are close to each other,” said Daniel, who at 22 is three years older than Sarah. “Obviously, it’s nice that we are close, especially for my mom. She knows if something happens, I would be close to [Sarah]. But we each made our decision separately.”
Daniel converted on 40.9 percent of his three-point tries as a freshman reserve last season at Wright State. Toward the end of the season, he got more playing time, scoring 14 points in the first round of the Horizon Tournament and 11 in the next game.
But when Wright State fired coach Billy Donlon after the season, Daniel was released from his scholarship.
Miami women’s basketball coach Katie Meier, who had seen Daniel play during a recruiting trip to New York to visit with Sarah and her host family, recommended him to Canes assistant men’s coach Chris Caputo.
“Daniel is talented!” Meier said enthusiastically.
Caputo got in touch with Barry coach Butch Estes, and that’s how Daniel became a Buccaneer.
“Daniel’s a tremendous offensive player,” Estes said. “He rebounds at a high level. And his knowledge gives him the ability to know where and when to pass the ball.”
But as talented as Daniel is, he probably wouldn’t be here had it not been for Sarah. While he describes himself as laid-back, the intense Sarah was the one who began plotting to come to the United States since she was about 10 years old, and she convinced him to do the same.
In May 2015, Sarah led Denmark to the U18 Nordic Championship, earning tournament MVP honors. Later that summer, she averaged 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds while competing in the Division B U18 European Championships.
She enrolled at Long Island Lutheran that fall and continued her assault on the basket, averaging 22.5 points and 9.5 rebounds.
Sarah, who would watch all the basketball she could in Denmark, even managing to stream WNBA games on her computer, said repetition is the key to her shooting success.
“When [I miss to the left], what do I have to do to fix it?” she said. “If it goes off the front of the rim, adjust as quickly as possible.”
Sarah’s shooting mechanics had numerous teams impressed. She had offers from Miami, Boston College, Virginia Tech and George Washington, and she was getting late interest from Penn State and Kentucky.
Meier said signing Mortensen became a priority.
“She hits shots and make stops in big moments,” Meier said. “There’s a special quality in this kid. I saw it when I recruited her, and I haven’t been disappointed [since].”
Meier made it clear Sarah has lots to work on, including defense, ball-handling, conditioning, strength, speed and finding a quicker release on her shot.
“[But] she’s already got the stuff that’s hard to teach,” Meier said. “She has an inherent nose for the ball and a competitive nature. She does everything the right way, every single time, every rep.
“Dang, when you find those qualities ... I could not lose her in recruiting. I went crazy about her. She adds a lot to this team.”
Wednesday: UM men vs. Barry
When/where: Exhibition game, 7 p.m. at Watsco Center on UM campus.
Records (last season): UM 27-8 (NCAA Sweet 16), Barry 26-7 (Division II Elite 8).
Scouting report: The Hurricanes’ top returning players are Davon Reed (11.1 ppg), Kamari Murphy (6 rpg), point guard Jaquan Newton, forward Anthony Lawrence and center Ebuka Izundu. Fans will get their first look at highly rated freshmen Dewan Huell, Bruce Brown, Dejan “DJ” Vasiljevic and Rodney Miller. Also, San Jose St. transfer Rashad Muhammad makes his debut. Barry is led by 6-5 senior forward Adrian Gonzalez (Hialeah Gardens High), and Iceland guard Elvar Fredriksson, who led the nation last season with 8.1 assists per game.