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.”

Aaliyah Gayles is cleared and eligible to play basketball for USC more than a year after she was shot at least nine times at a Las Vegas house party in April 2022.

Even when Gayles could hardly walk after the shooting, her return to the basketball court stayed on her mind. And she did so last September, when she first was cleared to train. She redshirted at USC last year, doing rehab on the sidelines as she watched her Trojan teammates put together a solid season, which included an upset of Stanford.

“I could be dropping dimes to my bigs right now. I could be dropping dimes to my shooters,” Gayles told ESPN at the time. “All I want to do is help my teammates. That’s what I’m trying to do right now. Get back on my feet so I can help them for next year.”

It was only a matter of time before she joined them. But it was still a long road back.

“It was never about just go play basketball,” USC athletic trainer Erin Tillman told ESPN. “It was like, just learn how to live first.”

Eventually, she made her way back, joining the team in the weight room and on the court for drills with her teammates. There’s still some hesitancy to her play, and it’s a little bit harder than it used to be.

“It’s like she’s not 100% who she was before, but sometimes I see herself get frustrated and doubt herself,” USC forward Rayah Marshall said. “I’m like, ‘Calm down. The game will come to you. Play your game. Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t go overthinking things. It’s just basketball.'”

Still, Gayles will be eligible to play starting on  Nov. 6, when No. 21 USC opens its season against No. 7 Ohio State. The game will be played in Las Vegas, Gayles’ hometown. And while she might not make her USC debut in that game, she can see it on the horizon.

“That’s the No. 1 thing on my mind right now,” she told ESPN. “Playing and getting right.”

And her teammates have no doubt that she will.

“I don’t think I’ve ever met someone as resilient,” Marshall said. “She just have this dog in her.”

Aaliyah Gayles is mounting an improbable comeback to the sport of basketball mere months after being shot 10 times in her arms and legs.

She was cleared this month by doctors to return to the court after an April shooting at a North Las Vegas house party.

The USC recruit, ranked eighth in the class of 2022 by ESPN, received support from the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces, who helped to pay for some of Gayles’ medical bills.

“We’re gonna send our prayers and our thoughts, and we donated financially but obviously you know we’re here in any way we can support,” Dearica Hamby told FOX5 back in April.

“Vegas is a tight basketball community so she’s like family,” she continued. “Hopefully she continues to stay strong and continues to hold her head high.”

Gayles credits the Aces’ run to the WNBA title in inspiring her through her recovery.

“Man… I was so happy,” Gayles said of the team’s first championship. “That’s the hometown. That’s the hometown, so you know it’s always gonna be stuck in my heart for real… I was so happy, like, it’s honestly like the best feeling just coming out of Vegas and they get this win!?”

Gayles will redshirt at USC this year, but she’s regaining strength and her bones have healed. Watching the Aces’ success helped her stay motivated.

“It opened my eyes, cause this is what I’m trying to do at USC also,” said Gayles. “I’m a redshirt this year just so I can have a little time to get back stronger.

“If they can do it, then I can do it for sure. So I’m just very appreciative, because that is support and love that I’m getting, and it’s just like, ‘Hey I can’t give up now, cause look how many people are watching me!’”

McDonald’s All-American Aaliyah Gayles, who was shot 10 times at a North Las Vegas house party, has signed a national letter of intent to USC, the school said Monday.

The basketball recruit from Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas was released from the hospital Saturday after undergoing a series of surgeries to treat injuries sustained in the shooting.

Gayles reportedly was one of four people shot at the April 16 gathering, with no arrests yet made.

Gayles, who averaged 13.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.3 assists last season, is the No. 8 recruit in the 2022 class according to ESPN.

“Aaliyah is one of the most talented, athletically gifted basketball players I’ve known. She is electric on the court, with her ability to score, defend and create for others with her ball-handling and vision,” USC head coach Lindsay Gottlieb said in a statement. “But from the moment I got to know her, I was also drawn to her character. Her humility, loyalty, warm personality and resilience set her apart, along with her athletic gifts.”

Just before being released from the hospital to a physical therapy facility, Gayles told FOX5 Vegas that her “body is feeling alright but it hurts still.”

After providing the local media outlet with an update on her condition, Gayles was sure to thank everyone who lent their love and support.

“First thing I told everybody is don’t cry — cause I didn’t. But I’m feeling — emotionally I’m feeling good. I’m just ready to get back on the court,” Gayles said.

First, there was shock.

Just hours earlier, they had all been together in Chicago, at the Jordan Brand Classic game, a showcase for the top 26 basketball players in the class of 2022. At the center of it all, as is often the case at these gatherings among the nation’s elite, was Aaliyah Gayles, the Spring Valley High School (Nevada) point guard, USC commit and owner of the group’s most contagious smile.

Then came fear.

The news spread on social media: Gayles had been shot at a house party in Las Vegas. Her condition was unclear. The four- and five-star recruits bounced into each others’ Instagram DMs, frantically trading what little information they had. It was Sunday night.

“When you see multiple gunshot wounds, you don’t know,” Sidwell Friends (D.C.) point guard Kiki Rice said. “You assume it’s bad.”

“It just broke my heart,” Homestead (Fort Wayne, Ind.) wing Ayanna Patterson said.

“This can’t be real. Not Aaliyah, not Aaliyah,” Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.) forward Maya Nnaji said she thought.

Finally, as the school week progressed, there came some relief.

Gayles had been shot 10 times, including eight times in the legs and ankles, but her injuries were not life-threatening. She underwent three surgeries and is expected to make a “full recovery.” Doctors were hopeful Gayles would be able to learn how to walk again from rehabilitation.

Her basketball future, however, is less certain.

What happened to Gayles at a Las Vegas house party on Saturday night will take time to process, for Gayles, her family and her loved ones. Among those impacted are the girls from across the country who’ve gotten to know the springy guard over the years, who’ve been her direct competitors for awards, rankings and scholarship offers.

Instead of enemies, they’ve become friends, forming a basketball sisterhood whose bond was strengthened at the Jordan game and the McDonald’s All-American Game, also in Chicago, on March 29. Gayles, with her flashy handles and flashier dance moves, had become the group’s purveyor of joy, on and off the court.

So, for the girls who’ve come to know Gayles, the past week was a rollercoaster of emotions: Shock. Fear. Relief. And something else less quantifiable, but just as visceral.

“It makes me want to go out there and compete even harder,” Nnaji said, “for her.”


The moment that best encapsulates Gayles, her friends said, came on March 28, the evening before the McDonald’s game. The 24 girls had just been awarded their All-American rings, and were being called to load back on the bus for the hotel.

Gayles had another idea.

She saw a DJ and a dance floor. It was time, she decided, to dance.

“She was dancing so hard,” Nnaji said. “She was going crazy!”

With her “West Coast flavor,” as Patterson put it, Gayles urged the rest of the girls to join her on the floor. Soon she and Janiah Barker, the 6-foot-2 forward from Montverde (Fla.) committed to Texas A&M, were sweating through their white T-shirts, and Iman Shumpert, the NBA shooting guard from 2011-21, was dancing by their side.

Rice, winner of the JWS Player of the Year award and several other national honors, is the most celebrated name in the class. But Rice, who does not identify as a “good dancer,” was not too proud to admit she could learn something from Gayles.

“We were joking about how she needed to teach me how to dance,” Rice said.

Rice first met Gayles, she said, in eighth grade, at the Blue Star 30 camp in Las Vegas. Same with Patterson, who recalled that Gayles took control of an impromptu dance circle at the camp despite being among the youngest players in attendance.

“She wants everyone to feel as happy as she is,” Nnaji said. “She’s always trying to get other people to smile.”

That also applies to the court, where Gayles has built a reputation among her peers for her ankle-breaking handles and calls for the crowd to make noise. In a practice ahead of the McDonald’s game, she successfully threw a between-the-legs lob to Patterson. The same behavior from a lesser-liked player might evoke bitterness, but not Gayles, who averaged 13.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.3 assists for Spring Valley this past season.

On Monday night, a local parent set up a GoFundMe page to help Gayles’ family pay for medical expenses. Several of the players Gayles has met on the national scene from the class of 2022, Patterson said, donated $22 each as an act of solidarity.

Gayles will probably spend about two months in a wheelchair, former Spring Valley coach Billy Hemberger (he left to take the head job at Liberty this month) told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But Gayles was in good spirits, he said.

Still, questions remain about her future, as well as what happened Saturday night. Her father, Dwight, wrote in a since-deleted tweet that Gayles normally doesn’t attend house parties.

“For the record my kid hates house parties,” he wrote. “Anybody that knows her knows that. She was simply returning a favor to a friend that came to her birthday party and within (minutes) of being there this happened.”

It’s all still a little difficult for Rice, a UCLA signee, to wrap her head around. Will she ever get to play against Gayles in Pac-12 rivalry games, as they had talked about?

Rice, Gayles and a few other girls rode on the same bus to the airport Saturday morning. Gayles told Rice she was going to head straight to the gym from the airport. She didn’t hear about a party.

The next day, it was Rice who told Patterson what had happened. Patterson, who is bound for UConn, did not have a workout scheduled for Monday, but after school she hopped in her car and drove 30 minutes to her father’s facility, the McMillan Park Community Center in Fort Wayne.

Patterson threw up shot after shot, seemingly alone. Though the ball was flying off Patterson’s fingertips, she felt like someone else was taking the shots.

“This,” Patterson said, “is her moment.”

Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.

USC women’s basketball commit Aaliyah Gayles was conscious Monday following emergency surgeries to treat gunshot wounds she sustained at a house party in North Las Vegas late Saturday, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

The McDonald’s All-American was shot 10 times, according to the Review-Journal, including eight times in the legs and ankles.

Her father Dwight Gayles said Tuesday on Twitter that she had undergone a third surgery that “went very well.”

“We expect a full recovery,” he wrote. “Thank you everyone for your support.”

WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes was one of many to send support, tweeting that she is “lifting Aaliyah Gayles up in prayer!”

Aces All-Star Dearica Hamby, who has the same trainer as Gayles, tweeted a link to a fundraiser that has been set up to support the high school senior’s recovery. As of noon Tuesday, the fundraiser already has surpassed $13,000.

“Vegas is kind of a basketball community, so just showing support during a tragic situation. Just doing what I can,” Hamby told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We’re thankful that she’s alive. We’re here for her.”

Both she and teammate Kelsey Plum have donated to the fundraiser, and A’ja Wilson said that she intends to do so as well.

“I know times are tough right now, but she’s always in our prayers,” Wilson said. “The Aces are behind her 100 percent. … Right now, she just needs support and prayer. I know she’s a warrior. I know she’s going to fight through it.”

High school basketball star and USC commit Aaliyah Gayles has been hospitalized after being shot multiple times late Saturday in North Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.

Gayles, 18, who recently played in the McDonald’s All-American game and is a JWS second-team All-American, was one of four people to suffer gunshot wounds after a fight broke out at a house party, according to North Las Vegas police.

The four people were hospitalized with survivable gunshot wounds, the Review-Journal reported, though one woman was listed in “serious” condition with wounds to her lower body.

Gayles underwent two emergency surgeries Sunday morning, sources told the Review-Journal.

Gayles’ father Dwight tweeted an update on his daughter’s condition Sunday night.

“I know there is some that will say it’s my fault and I take full responsibility for it but please please keep my baby girl in your prayers Las Vegas,” he wrote. “I will give everyone that support Aaliyah an update but she’s ok she go make it like always thank you all, true warrior.”

The No. 8-ranked recruit per ESPN, Gayles averaged 13.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.3 assists per game for Las Vegas’ Spring Valley High School. In August, she committed to USC under head coach Lindsay Gottlieb after previously decommitting from the school following the retirement of former coach Mark Trakh.

“Aaliyah is one of the strongest, most resilient young people I have ever known,” Gottlieb said in a statement to ESPN on Sunday night. “I have no doubt she will continue to face this unfathomable situation with courage and resolve. We will continue to support her and her parents in every way that we possibly can.”

Gayles had been in Chicago on Friday, playing in the Jordan Brand Classic.