Aaliyah Gayles, who was shot multiple times at a house party in 2022, made her comeback in spectacular fashion by checking into a basketball game for the first time in 574 days. This significant milestone occurred during the fourth quarter of No. 21 USC’s 67-51 victory over Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night.
The Galen Center in Los Angeles erupted into applause as the redshirt freshman, Gayles, entered the game with 1:40 left on the clock, receiving a standing ovation from the USC bench and cheering fans.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Gayles confidently dribbled near half court. Her teammates joyfully surrounded her, with forward Rayah Marshall lifting her into a celebratory hug amidst the exuberant atmosphere.
Reflecting on her emotional return, Gayles shared with ESPN, “It felt good. It boosted my confidence a little bit. I feel like I was back to my old self.”
This inspiring comeback comes after Gayles endured fractures in all four of her limbs following a shooting incident in North Las Vegas on April 16, 2022. Amid the adversity, she displayed unparalleled resilience, undergoing numerous surgeries to address the 18 bullet holes she sustained. Remarkably, Gayles had participated in the Jordan Brand Classic in Chicago the night before her life-changing ordeal. Even while confined to her hospital bed, she signed her national letter of intent and made a solemn vow to play for the Trojans in the future.
A testament to her unwavering determination, Gayles began the grueling journey of learning to walk again just two months later. This chapter of her remarkable resilience led her to enroll at USC for the fall semester a year ago, dedicating her freshman year to intensive rehabilitation.
For Gayles, her triumphant return to the court was a poignant moment, witnessed by the iconic presence of USC legend Cheryl Miller and her father, Dwight, who spoke with ESPN, “It sent chills through my body. She did it. She finally touched the floor of a USC basketball court.”
Prior to her injury, Gayles, a 5-foot-9 guard, was highly regarded as the No. 8 recruit in the 2022 class and a McDonald’s All American. Her exceptional skills were evident during her senior year at Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas, where she averaged 13.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals, and 3.3 assists.
USC (2-0) will take to the court again on Monday, facing off against Le Moyne.
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