Photo courtesy of UConn Athletics.
By David Cordova
When one sustains an injury while playing the game, they fear one thing: the end of an aspiring basketball career. But then again, for those that heal from their injuries, there is one thing they’re looking forward to: the comeback. The end and the comeback are curses and blessings, respectively. However, when one gets a second chance, they don’t take it lightly.
Enter Alterique Gilbert. Throughout the previous two seasons at UConn, he has been plagued with injuries that have dogged him and kept him out of action. But this season, he’s overcome everything that held him back and he is now injury-free and showing Huskies’ fans what they had been waiting on since the moment he enrolled on campus in Storrs, Connnecticut, in the summer of 2016.
The 6-foot point guard is a player that can score in bunches, but is also a great facilitator that can get his teammates involved when the moment presents itself. So far this season, he has provided plenty of great moments for UConn.
“I just want to have fun,” said Gilbert when asked what motivates him to be successful on the court. “This is the only time when I feel free, and I feel like the court is my sanctuary, so every time I step on the court, I’m just grateful for the opportunity, and I’m just trying to have fun.”
Gilbert is originally from Richmond, Virginia, but then later moved to the state of Georgia, where he spent his teenage years. When asked about the basketball culture in the city of Atlanta and throughout the state, he replied, “The basketball culture? It’s good, I mean, a lot of people see, it’s like in the South and it’s like a football state, but I think there’s a lot of basketball players that are overlooked in Georgia, a lot of talent is overlooked in Georgia.”
Gilbert spent his high school years at Miller Grove High School, which was a powerhouse under head coach Sharman White. As a junior, he averaged 18.5 points, 6.2 assists, 5.3 steals and 4.7 rebounds per game. As a senior, he averaged 20.1 points, 5.8 assists, 5.5 rebounds and 4.3 steals per game for the Wolverines, as he led them to a 31-3 record, a Georgia Class 5A state championship and an appearance in the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament in Middle Village, New York.
When asked about his time at Miller Grove and for White, Gilbert replied, “It was great. [White was a] good coach. One of the best times of my life, put some state championships up. It was fun, it was fun to learn from him.”
As a senior, he was rated as the No. 30 recruit in the Class of 2016, and won both the Mr. Georgia Basketball award and the Gatorade Player of the Year award for the state of Georgia. He was also selected to play in both the McDonald’s All-American Game and the Jordan Brand Classic.
In July 2015, after being offered by as many as 20 schools around the nation, Gilbert decided to make his pledge to the University of Connecticut. When asked why he chose UConn, he replied, “The tradition, championships, Kemba [Walker], Shabazz [Napier], all those guys, man.”
But then tragedy set in. At the Jordan Brand Classic in April 2016, Gilbert suffered a shoulder injury and would spend his first summer in college rehabbing from the injury. But that wouldn’t be the last time that he would go through injury.
In the first three games of his freshman season, he averaged 10.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game when tragedy struck on November 17th, 2016 on the road against Loyola Marymount, when he tore the labrum in his left shoulder and would be out for the remainder of the season.
He would then come back in the 2016-17 season, this time playing in six games and averaging 9 points, four rebounds and 2.8 assists per game when injury struck him again on November 25th, 2017 when UConn played in Nike’s PK 80 Invitational in Portland, Oregon against Michigan State, when he re-injured his left shoulder. He would try to play the next game against Arkansas and spent 17 minutes on the court, but then came out. Doctors decided that another surgery was needed.
When asked about the rough ordeal and if he felt if it was bad luck, he replied, “Nah, I don’t believe in that, I believe in God, everything happens for a reason. I think it was a blessing in disguise, it was a great, great setback, it gave me an opportunity to learn a lot of things about myself.”
Coming into this season, there were some changes. Dan Hurley took over as head coach of the Huskies on March 22nd, taking over the reins from the departed Kevin Ollie, who was fired on March 10th. This season, all has been well for Gilbert as far as his health and overall game.
This season, he is averaging 13 points, 3.8 assists and three rebounds for the Huskies, who are now 12-8 on the season. When asked about being healthy, he replied, “I’m just excited to be on the court with my teammates. A lot of the time, most of the time I’ve been here, it’s been spent with my teammates off the court, so I’m finally getting a chance to get a little vibe with them on the court.”
On the current season, he replied, “It’s been good, you know, just playing, really. I think we’ve got a lot of work to do as a team and a lot of adjustments to make. But I like where we’re at right now.”
On playing for Hurley, he added: “It’s good, he’s a good coach, passionate and loves what he does. He’s a great leader before anything. That’s why we appreciate him the most for.”
Now that Gilbert is in his first full season as a redshirt sophomore, Huskies fans can expect more from him for another two years. There will be plenty of moments for him to lead with Jalen Adams graduating in the spring. If he can continue to stay healthy, then sky is the limit for him.
First things first, he must lead the Huskies to a big finish in conference play to help lead them to the NCAA Tournament. When asked about if he thought the UConn had a chance of making the Big Dance, he replied, “Yeah, I mean, without a doubt, I think it starts right now, though. It starts right now.”
When you’ve been down, there’s nowhere to go but up. And in the case of Alterique Gilbert, it’s time for him to go all the way up.
Highlights of Alterique Gilbert:
Courtesy of ESPN.
Courtesy of Ballislife/In The Lab.
Courtesy of Ballislife.
Courtesy of Courtside Films.
Courtesy of Courtside Films.
Courtesy of Ballislife/In The Lab.
Courtesy of True Vine Media.
Courtesy of The Patient Chase.