Oti Gildon: More than just a role player
When Oti Gildon came to the University of Oregon to play basketball in 2015, she was the highest-rated player to ever commit to the Ducks’ women’s basketball team. ESPN rated her as a five-star player, and the No. 37 recruit in the entire country.
She was a star in high school at Gonzaga Prep in Spokane, Washington, where she averaged 15.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game, while leading her team to its first state title.
Now in her junior season, Gildon supports the Ducks in a different way. She’s not a regular starter, nor does she average anything close to a double-double. Instead, Gildon is a role player for the Ducks who comes off the bench at any instance, ready and able to get the job done.
She considers one of her strengths to be adaptability. In a role Ruthy Hebard has dominated for the Ducks in her first two seasons in Eugene, Gildon has found herself on the bench. But, when Gildon is needed, the drop off in quality isn’t big.
“It’s been good to come off the bench, be a little bit of an energy boost to the team when we have a down moment,” Gildon said. “I like playing my role defensively — just getting rebounds as best I can.”
It wasn’t until this year that Gildon made her first start in a college game. Going up against Hampton in November, Hebard was out with a foot injury. It was Gildon’s time to step into the spotlight.
“I was a little nervous ’cause I haven’t started in a college game yet,” Gildon said after the game. “I stepped up to the plate and played pretty well.”
Gildon finished with a double-double on a team-leading 20 points and 12 rebounds, which are career highs. Head coach Kelly Graves called Gildon the Ducks’ “Draymond Green” after the performance.
“She’s a heck of a player,” Graves said. “Tonight we really needed her, and she stepped up. This is not out of the ordinary.”
While it may have been her first start, it wasn’t the first time she’d come up clutch for the Ducks.
Coming off the bench in the team’s early November road clash with now No. 16 Texas A&M, Gildon racked up 12 points and nine rebounds en-route to an 83-68 win. When the Ducks stunned No. 3-seeded Maryland in last year’s Sweet 16, she was in the thick of it with 11 points in addition to nine rebounds.
Gildon is also one of the team’s few upperclasswomen — in her words, “a grandma.” Mentoring the team’s more youthful roster is one of her favorite parts of her role.
“It’s good to just show the younger kids how to be calm on the court, be that presence for them with nerves and all that good stuff.”
And the central piece that ties everything together for Gildon? Her head coach’s vision.
“He’s been saying that he’s gonna make this program one of the best,” Gildon said. “I trust his process and just roll with whatever he says.”
Follow Aaron Alter on Twitter @aaronalter95
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