Oti Gildon cut her basketball teeth in several gyms across Spokane.
She’s looking forward to playing for the first time in Spokane’s biggest venue.
It’s been four years since Gildon has played in her home town. Now a junior at the University of Oregon, she has a homecoming Saturday afternoon when the second-seeded Ducks (32-4) face 11th seed Central Michigan (30-4) in the women’s NCAA Tournament Spokane Regional at the Arena.
It’ll be Gildon’s second trip home this month. She returned for two days following the Ducks’ win in the Pac-12 Conference tournament championship game.
Gildon will have her own rooting section with family, friends, former Gonzaga Prep and club teammates and former coaches.
“Mr. (John) Stockton and his family will be there,” Gildon said.
Stockton assisted G-Prep coach Mike Arte during Gildon’s four seasons. Laura Stockton, who just completed her junior season at Gonzaga, is Gildon’s best friend.
“I’m excited to see everybody – the family, friends and old Prep fans,” Gildon said Wednesday.
Her role has changed since her days as a three-year starter at G-Prep. She’s averaged 13.8 minutes per game off the bench this season.
“I just try to do my job, which is rebounding and defense,” she said. “I may have a different role than I had at Prep, but it’s always the same thing because I want the team to win.”
Gildon has played in 103 of 108 games since arriving in Eugene. Her minutes have increased each year.
The 6-foot-1 forward got her first start early this season against Hampton because a regular starter injured a foot. Gildon made the most of it, scoring a team-high 20 points with 12 rebounds in Oregon’s 87-45 win.
“I got the opportunity to play extra and I wanted to take advantage of it,” she said.
“She’s a heckuva player,” Ducks coach Kelly Graves said following the Hampton game. “Tonight, we really needed her and she stepped up. This is not out of the ordinary.”
Graves became familiar with Gildon while he was coach at Gonzaga University. He left for Oregon before Gildon’s senior year at G-Prep.
Graves recruited Gildon for many reasons, including her winning mentality. She was a key player for the Bullpups during back-to-back state championships.
Gildon was rated the No. 37 recruit in the nation by ESPN Hoopgurlz her senior year. At the time, she was the highest-ranked recruit signed by Oregon.
During Oregon’s NCAA Tournament-opening win last week against Seattle University, Gildon came off the bench to score 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grab six rebounds in 15 minutes.
“Oti is a winner,” Graves said after the game. “She’s been in a lot of big games relative to where she’s playing at that time. There’s always that one player who seems to shine … that has been her.”
Graves knows the value Gildon brings coming off the bench, whether she’s his first substitute or fourth reserve.
“She gives us a lift off the bench,” Graves said. “I think that’s important. It helps them (the bench) stay engaged and feel more part of it.”
Gildon averages 4.0 points and 3.3 rebounds while shooting 60 percent from the floor and 77 percent from the free-throw line.
In Oregon’s second-round win over Minnesota, she played nine minutes, scoring six points with two assists.
While Gildon’s minutes vary from game to game depending on matchups, she knows what is most important.
“I stay engaged on the bench so when I get in I’m ready to contribute,” Gildon said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s five minutes or 15 minutes, as long as I do something to better the team.”
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