On Friday, 574 days after her last basketball game, Aaliyah Gayles made her debut for USC.
Gayles entered with 1:40 left in the game to a standing ovation from the USC bench and cheers from the crowd at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. As the clock ticked down on the 67-51 win over Florida Gulf Coast, she dribbled the ball near half court and was surrounded by her teammates in celebration.
“It felt good,” Gayles told ESPN. “It boosted my confidence a little bit. I feel like I was back to my old self.”
It’s been a long road back for Gayles, who was shot at least nine times at a Las Vegas house party in April 2022. She had multiple surgeries to repair the damage from the shooting, with left fractures in all four of her limbs. Before she worked her the way back to the court, she had to learn how to walk again, and she spent her freshman year in intense rehab.
Her father, Dwight, was in attendance Sunday, as was USC legend Cheryl Miller.
“It sent chills through my body,” Dwight told ESPN. “She did it. She finally touched the floor of a USC basketball court.”