USC's Aaliyah Gayles wins Tammy Blackburn Inspiration Award

 

Aaliyah Gayles

USC's Aaliyah Gayles is the recipient of the Tammy Blackburn Inspiration Award, which is presented to a Pac-12 Conference women's basketball student-athlete, coach or staff member who exhibits courage, resilience and unbreakable spirit in overcoming adversity in their life. The award was created to honor Tammy Blackburn, veteran Pac-12 Networks broadcaster and former star basketball player for San Diego State who has battled breast cancer since 2017.

As a senior in high school, Gayles was the victim of multiple gunshot wounds in a shooting at a house party. The Las Vegas native suffered fractures in both arms and both legs and endured multiple surgeries to repair the damage. Committed to USC women's basketball, Gayles signed her NLI from her hospital bed and would come to USC as a freshman in 2022.

Through physical therapy, and despite follow-up surgeries during her true freshman season, she remained determined to get back on the court while also constantly supporting, encouraging and inspiring her Trojan family.

On Nov. 10, 2023, roughly two years after the incident, Gayles checked in to a game for the first time in a USC uniform to a standing ovation - and tears - from her team, support staff and fans. A little over two weeks later, Gayles nailed her first three-pointer as a Trojan, with the USC bench erupting in support of their beloved and determined teammate.

Blackburn was initially diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer in 2017 and went into remission after treatment. She learned that her cancer had returned and spread in January of 2019, and she was diagnosed with Stage 4, or metastatic, breast cancer. Despite her difficult diagnosis and on-going treatment, Tammy continues to serve as an inspirational role model with her positivity and dedication. Last season, Blackburn developed the "Buck-A-Board Challenge," in which she donated $1 for every rebound during the seven women's basketball games she called during February of 2023. The fundraiser, which drew support from a number of Pac-12 coaches, referees, players and fans, raised more than $29,000 for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

 

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