Aaliyah Gayles, who was shot multiple times at a house party in 2022, entered a basketball game for the first time in 574 days in the fourth quarter of No. 21 USC’s 67-51 win over Florida Gulf Coast on Friday night.
With 1:40 left in the game, the redshirt freshman walked onto the USC bench and a cheering crowd at the Galen Center in Los Angeles.
Gayles fired a shot towards half-court as the final seconds ticked off the clock. Forward Rayah Marshall took Gayles in a hug in celebration as her teammates surrounded her.
“It felt good,” Gayles told ESPN. “It boosted my confidence a little bit. I feel like I’m back to my old self.”
Gayles broke all four of his limbs on April 16, 2022, in a shooting in North Las Vegas. Doctors counted 18 bullet holes, and Gayles underwent multiple surgeries to repair the damage. He had played in the Jordan Brand Classic in Chicago the night before. He signed the nation’s letter of intent from his hospital bed and promised himself that one day he would play for the Trojans.
After two months, he started learning to walk again. He enrolled at USC in the fall semester last year and spent his freshman year getting serious help.
Gayles returned to the court with USC legend Cheryl Miller in attendance. Earlier in the evening, USC honored the 1983 and 1984 national teams. Among the stands was his father, Dwight.
“It sent chills through my body,” Dwight told ESPN. “He did it. He finally touched down on the USC basketball court.”
Gayles, a 5-foot-9 guard, was the No. 8 pick in the class of 2022 and a McDonald’s All American. As a senior at Spring Valley High School in Las Vegas, he averaged 13.8 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.5 steals and 3.3 assists.
USC (2-0) returns to the court Monday against Le Moyne.