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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Former Gonzaga Prep, Oregon basketball player Oti Gildon starts coaching journey at Seattle U

Oregon forward Oti Gildon (32) grabs a rebound during a March 2018 NCAA Tournament game at the Spokane Arena.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Charlotte McKinley For The Spokesman-Review

Oti Gildon continues to impress people – first with her illustrious basketball career and now as an women’s basketball assistant coach at Seattle University.

Born in Indiana but raised in Spokane, Gildon has a long history with basketball, a journey that began when she was just 5.

She started playing AAU in seventh grade and was recruited by John Stockton to join the Spokane Sandpipers, a club team she played for while also starring at Gonzaga Prep.

A 2015 graduate of G-Prep, Gildon was a first-team All-Greater Spokane League selection three years in a row and a key member of a team that compiled a 51-0 record over two seasons.

Ranked the No. 37 recruit in the nation by ESPN Hoopgurlz, Gildon signed with the University of Oregon.

She played 143 games with the Ducks – the third most in program history. She finished with 583 career points and 414 rebounds, and helped lead Oregon to the NCAA’s Elite Eight in 2017 and 2018, and the Final Four the following season.

After graduating in 2019, Gildon moved on to play basketball professionally for Lombos Quina in Portugal. Despite the pandemic cutting her season short, she said she learned a ton that season.

“The switch from (playing) college and professional is the fact that you’re on your own,” Gildon said. “You have to make your own meal plans. You got to find your own time to work out in the weight room.”

For Gildon, the language barrier was another aspect she had to overcome.

“I was fortunate enough that my team and my coaches knew English and could communicate with me well,” she said. “That helped a lot.”

That season, Gildon was named the 2020 Portugal Eurobasket forward of the year and a Eurobasket Al-Portugese first-team selection.

After the pandemic cut her professional career short, she accepted a position at Oregon as the interim director of creativity/student athlete support, which included content creation and management of social media platforms for the team.

“I was able to learn a different side of the basketball world in terms of coaching,” she said of her experience.

Out of the blue, former Oregon teammate and current Seattle University assistant coach Lexi Petersen texted Gildon with a question.

“She shot me a text and was like, ‘Hey, you ready to coach?’ ” Gildon said. “She’s like, ‘We have a position opening up and I talked to our head coach, and she’d love to get on the phone and kind of see what you’re thinking.’ ”

Gildon was faced with a choice: Stay at OU or move to Seattle University to begin a coaching career.

A few days prior, she had a chat with some of the staff and Oregon associate head coach Jodie Berry on her future – was it time for her to move to a coaching position?

A phone call with Seattle University’s women’s basketball’s coach Suzy Barcomb sealed the deal.

“I had a lot of support from the Oregon staff. They didn’t want me to leave but they knew that opportunities were going to come eventually,” Gildon said.

“They always have my back in terms of that.”

The move to Seattle was not easy as she was faced with some challenges during the start of the school year.

“I think the main (challenge) is getting your student-athletes to buy in and to trust you until they want to play for you.”

Though only being a few months in, Gildon has started to see some of the girls work through some of the same difficulties she had to work through as a collegiate athlete.

She can especially relate to one athlete struggling with time management.

“(The athlete is) basically trying to figure out how to get some extra work in on the basketball court, trying to figure out how to manage her workload in terms of school and classes, and also trying to just balance her social life and her spirituality,” Gildon said. “I was the same way when I was her age.”

As an assistant coach, Gildon is fulfilling her desire to help mold people into better young adults. It’s why she pursued a degree in crime law in society.

“I’ve always just wanted to kind of help the troubled youth and just get them out of tough places,” she said.

“In coaching, I can still do that but in a different way.”