In a twist of fate, Cardinal Gibbons senior guard Deniz Ozaltin is returning a labor of love to the mother — Mirtha Ozaltin — who made her life’s work providing whatever her daughter needed.
As if juggling an honors curriculum and orchestra recitals during a grueling basketball season wasn’t enough, Deniz Ozaltin said being a caretaker for her mother, who has cancer, makes a hectic schedule worthwhile.
“My mom inspires me a lot,” Deniz said. “She has built a lot of courage in me. She has been my backbone. At this time she needs all the help she can get. I help her walk around the house and get her food and medications. It’s my turn to give her whatever she needs.”
Mirtha Ozaltin doesn’t get out to many games as she used to, but she appreciates the huge dose of affection she receives from the Chiefs’ extended family.
That much was evident when Mirtha Ozaltin received the star treatment from players, coaches, faculty and fans when she attended two home games (both victories) this season.
Chiefs coach Kevin Gordon said his team has rallied around the fighting spirit Deniz has shown by caring for her mother.
During the rare occasions Deniz needed a shoulder to lean on, she has turned to Kristen Pollock and Katie Mae Lanzon, her best friends on the team.
“Deniz just has great character,” Gordon said. “I don’t know what it feels like to be in her shoes. All I know it’s not easy. Her mom is a fighter just like Deniz. This is teaching our kids a part of life. It has helped everyone come together.”
Gordon said Deniz’s selflessness as the chase defender in the Chief’s diamond-and-one zone has set the tone for a surprising season. The Chiefs (9-2) have played without All-Broward first-team forward Kiara Robinson, who is out with an injury, but somehow managed to stay in the Class 4A state-title hunt.
Deniz said her mother’s health ordeal, which started in 2006, has forced her to develop a sense of urgency toward reaching her goal to become a trial lawyer.
Deniz participated in a mock trial in Washington, D.C., two years ago, which only reinforced a desire to have her mother see her graduate from law school.
“Everything I do I keep my mom in the back of my mind,” Deniz said. “Whether winning a game or graduating college.
“What she is going through has strengthened me as a person. I am able to go through a lot of situations that most people my age can’t and not be affected.”