This past Friday, a player returned to the USC Trojans women's basketball team — but it wasn't just any return. It was Aaliyah Gayles, who hasn't played since she was shot multiple times at a house party on April 16, 2022 — 574 days ago.
Upon checking into the game, she received a standing ovation.
On April 16, 2022, Aaliyah Gayles was shot at least 18 times at a house party.
On Friday, she checked into her first basketball game in 574 days for the USC Trojans to a standing ovation. pic.twitter.com/8T32Mu9Wdw
— espnW (@espnW) November 12, 2023
According to ESPN, after the shooting, doctors found 18 bullet holes in her body and estimated that nine shots hit her.
Correction: Doctors counted 18 bullet holes in Aaliyah Gayles' body, estimating that she was shot nine times.
— espnW (@espnW) November 13, 2023
Gayles checked in to Friday's game during the fourth quarter of their game against Florida Gulf Coast. The Trojans went on to win 67-51.
The redshirt freshman came in with just 1:40 to go, spurring a massive standing ovation. She dribbled near half court as the final seconds came off the clock. After the game, Gayles was picked up by USC center Rayah Marshall in celebration, and her other teammates greeted her with hugs.
"It felt good," Gayles told ESPN. "It boosted my confidence a little bit. I feel like I was back to my old self."
The shooting in North Las Vegas left Gayles with fractures in all four of her limbs. She underwent numerous surgeries to repair the damage. The night before the shooting, she had played in the Jordan Brand Classic. She signed her letter of intent with the Trojans from her hospital bed.
Two months after the incident, she learned to walk again.
Her father, Dwight, was in attendance and watched his daughter on a college basketball court for the first time.
"It sent chills through my body," Dwight told ESPN. "She did it. She finally touched the floor of a USC basketball court."
Gayles was the No. 8 recruit in the 2022 class and a McDonald's All-American. She played for Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas, averaging 13.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.3 assists per game.
Her Trojans are now 2-0 and will take on Le Moyne on Monday.
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