She’s making the most of her second chance!
Aaliyah Gayles made a name for herself even before she joined the University of Southern California’s (USC) women’s basketball team as a redshirt freshman guard. According to Deseret News, Gayles was a McDonald’s All-American athlete and the number eight recruit in the class of 2022. But Gayles’ promising future almost came to a screeching halt last Spring. On April 16, 2022, Gayles was shot at a party in her hometown of Las Vegas after a masked gunman opened fire. The shooting happened just one day after Gayles played in the Jordan Brand Classic in Chicago.
She was rushed to the hospital, where the trauma surgeon at University Medical Center reported she had been shot nine times in her arms and legs, counting 18 total bullet holes. Gayles was left with damage to her wrist and a fractured left forearm; bullet holes above her right elbow, in her right thigh bone, ankle, and both shins. Doctors then performed life-saving measures to prevent the amputation of one of her legs as the result of a ripped artery behind her left knee. Her father, Dwight Gayles, admitted he thought his daughter’s career was over.
“I’m thinking, like, reality. Both legs. Both arms. People don’t just bounce back from something like that, you know? But I forgot who I was talking about,” he said.
After an array of surgeries, Gayles decided she wasn’t going to count herself out. Just nine days after the shooting, while still in the hospital bed, the rising star signed her letter of intent for USC. Three months later, she redshirted for the team while still completing rehab. That September, doctors cleared her to begin training.
Cover photo: After Surviving A Shooting, USC Player Aaliyah Gayles Makes Emotional Comeback/Photo by Bridget Bennett/ESPN
This season, she finally hit the court with USC during their Nov. 10th game against Florida Gulf Coast. This past week, she played her third game with the team, scoring her first official basket since the shooting in the team’s 85-44 victory against Cal Poly. Scoring both a 3-pointer and free-throw during her four minutes on court, the moment was super emotional for Gayles and her teammates.
“That’s everything to us. That’s our teammate. That’s our sister, and we know how much it means to her so therefore, it means that much to us. I think basketball has been the most important thing to her, and we all know how hard she worked to get back and everything she’s been through. We’re just super happy for her. I’m super proud of her,” said teammate McKenzie Forbes.
Gayles told reporters she’s starting to feel like herself again and feels more confident after hitting the court. While the investigation into her shooting is still ongoing and her shooter has yet to be captured, the family has come a long way. Gayles is playing again and finally accomplishing her dream of becoming a Trojan, which her father considers a miracle.
“It sent chills through my body. She did it. She finally touched the floor of a USC basketball court.”
Cover photo: After Surviving A Shooting, USC Player Aaliyah Gayles Makes Emotional Comeback/Photo by Jenny Chuang/USC Athletics