‘Just have faith:’ Gilbert overcomes battles with mental health


Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower

Wichita State redshirt senior Alterique Gilbert celebrates after getting an And-1 during the game against Tulane at Charles Koch Arena on Feb. 3.

Over a year ago, Wichita State senior point guard Alterique Gilbert hit his low point. Gilbert, then at the University of Connecticut, sat out of the Huskies’ game against Temple due to personal reasons.  

Gilbert had missed games before but this one was different. In the months that followed, Gilbert opened up about the mental health problems he’s faced throughout his collegiate career. He’s found ways to cope with it as he returned to the sport that he’s played since he was eight-years-old.

“My biggest thing on mental health is a thing that everybody deals with,” Gilbert said.“Different people have different ways of handling that and some of the ways I’ve handled that is self-care. Just continue to build your mind, slow your mind down and love yourself and really just enjoy your life. Just try to keep all those things in perspective and try to live your life.”

Coming out of high school, Gilbert was a five-star recruit and was the No. 32 player in the country, according to 247Sports. Gilbert, an Atlanta native, chose to continue his basketball career at Connecticut. But Gilbert’s Husky career was filled with adversity from the start.

In his third game as a freshman, Gilbert tore his labrum diving for a loose ball, causing season-ending shoulder surgery. Gilbert was held to six games the following year after suffering a hard blow to his left shoulder and once again underwent shoulder surgery. 

His redshirt sophomore season was his most healthy one yet, even though he missed five games with a shoulder injury and a concussion.

“It was tough mentally because it was new to me,” Gilbert said. “I was never hurt before for a long period of time. Everything just slowed down for me and I had to put a lot of things in perspective and really reinvent myself multiple times. I’ve basically been through that process three times and it’s made me who I am today.”

Wichita State Tyson Etienne dabs up Alterique Gilbert during the game against UCF at Charles Koch Arena on Jan. 30. (Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower)

Gilbert said he used basketball as an escape but the injuries took that away. 

“It was tough at times because I wasn’t able to play basketball because of my injuries,” he said. “That’s why I came to a static, stagnant mindset and I didn’t really know what to do with my time. I was really starting to get worried about the future. I just had to put my faith in God and believe in myself and just have faith.”

Athletes have been more open in talking about their mental health struggles in recent years. 

Gilbert said that student-athletes shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when it comes to mental health struggles. 

“I think student-athletes should know that and then it’s a thing that should be talked more about,” he said. “I know a lot of kids grow up and have different life experiences, different traumas. As we get older, we learn how to adjust to them and become better people from those experiences.”

For long stretches of his Husky career, Gilbert felt alone. The coach he had once committed to had been fired and was unsure what his future held. 

After taking his one-game absence in late January 2020, Gilbert returned to the Huskies but this time featured a new role. Gilbert came off the bench for 10 of the remaining 11 games of the season after starting the first 19 games. 

Gilbert felt that he was turning a corner but once again adversity hit. Hours before the Huskies’ first-round AAC Tournament game, COVID-19 was brought to the national stage. Gilbert was isolated again but this time saw it as an opportunity to better himself. 

“I think a lot of people didn’t even know what to do with their time in quarantine because it was new to everyone,” Gilbert said. “But as it went on I just took time out for myself. It allowed me to move at my own pace and do things that I wanted to do and also gave me time to work on the things that I wanted to improve on and off the court.”

Wichita State redshirt senior Alterique Gilbert looks to pass during the game against UCF at Charles Koch Arena on Jan. 30. (Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower)

During quarantine, Gilbert graduated from UConn majoring in urban and community studies. Gilbert opted to utilize his graduate transfer and ended up at Wichita State. 

Once again hardships followed Gilbert’s basketball career. The coach he committed for his senior season, resigned and the team faced postponements due to COVID-19. Even with this adversity, Gilbert has emerged as one of the stars for WSU and is averaging 10.2 points per game. 

“I think all in all we’ve got a great relationship,” Gilbert said. “All the guys get along off the court, everybody’s really upbeat, a lot of energy on and off the court. We hang out and there’s just a great team vibe. This team came together really well. It was pretty cool to see and be a part of.”

Gilbert has found to cope with his struggles. Whether it’s podcasts, meditation, yoga, or puzzles he’s found ways to adapt. These outlets have allowed Gilbert to stay focused and in a better mindset than before.

“I like to do it early in the morning. It gives me a different feeling for my day, puts me in a better mood going forward. I think a lot of people like to see what works for them. These are some of the things that work for me. Anything that slows my mind down and keeps me in today’s moment.”

Gilbert said his  family’s support throughout this process has been crucial. 

“I feel like I have the biggest support system,” Gilbert said. “Without them, I would have lost it. I have people who check up on me each and every day. It’s just those things like those people letting you know, they love you and you have that support. My family’s been there every time. The calls never stop and the messages never stop. ”

Gilbert said he is unsure what his future holds. Winter sport athletes have been given an additional year of eligibility by the NCAA due to COVID-19 but Gilbert is just trying to take things day-by-day.

“When I was younger, I used to worry about the future a lot. It gave me a type of anxiety that I didn’t like. So I always try to think in the moment. When that time comes then I’ll make that decision.”