Being the son of an NBA legend is tough. Just ask Bronny James how hard it is to escape the spotlight and drama. Following in the footsteps of a superstar father is nearly impossible to do, and young players like Shareef O’Neal knows that all too well.
O’Neal, the son of Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, isn’t quite as big as his dad. Nor did he have the same hype coming out of high school. However, he’s trying to make a name for himself on the basketball court, but it hasn’t come easy.
A 6-foot-9 power forward, O’Neal originally committed to play for the Arizona Wildcats before ultimately signing with the UCLA Bruins. Then, before his freshman season, he was diagnosed with an anomalous coronary artery, which required open-heart surgery and a medical redshirt.
That wasn’t going to stop him from playing college basketball. O’Neal returned to action and played in 13 games this season under head coach Mick Cronin. But that apparently wasn’t enough, and he announced his departure on social media in January.
Shareef O’Neal Transfers From UCLA
In 13 games during his redshirt freshman season, O’Neal averaged 2.2 points and 2.9 rebounds. He only saw double-digit minutes in five contests and didn’t see the floor in the Bruins’ matchup with California on January 19.
Perhaps playing time was a factor. Maybe it was just time to go. Whatever the case might be, Shaq’s son Shareef O’Neal has entered the NCAA Transfer Portal.
“My parents have always taught me that transparency is the best form of communication. It is in this spirit that I announced today my departure from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). If I had to thank every person that contributed to this learning experience this message would be too long to read. However, I would like to give special thanks to Coach Steve Alford who recruited me here, Coach Cronin for developing me, and the awesome medical staff for giving me a second chance at fulfilling my dreams of playing on the next level. A part of my heart will always be at UCLA figuratively and literally. I’m looking forward to the next chapter, wherever that maybe. And a very special thanks to the UCLA fans for your continued support these past two years. You truly have been the strength that sustained me.”Advertisement
More often than not, sons of former NBA players don’t always go to college where their father did. The pressure alone is a lot to handle. But Shaquille O’Neal’s son will now go to his father’s alma mater in Baton Rouge and play for the LSU Tigers.
Shareef O’Neal Commits to LSU
Shareef O’Neal, a four-star recruit who was ranked as the No. 32 prospect in the country by ESPN while at Crossroads School, was offered by the Tigers back in 2018. He also fielded offers from Arizona, Baylor, California, Georgetown, Kansas State, and USC, according to 247Sports.
O’Neal committed to follow in his father’s footsteps with Sports Illustrated’s Robin Lundberg on February 14.
“I’m going to LSU,” he said. “It’s real big footsteps, but I’m ready for it. Great program. Louisiana is a different scene. I’ve been in LA most of my life, but I’m ready for it.”
A heart condition was only a minor setback. Shareef O’Neal is ready to play again, and LSU Basketball and the SEC is where he’s headed next.
This post was originally published on January 23, 2020 before updating.