Shareef O’Neal, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, will miss his freshman season on the UCLA basketball team because he requires heart surgery.
The highly-recruited, 6ft10 center’s unspecified heart condition was discovered by team doctors after he ‘felt funny’ during summer workouts with teammates, he told TMZ Sports. O’Neal was asked to wear a heart monitor and push a button whenever he felt poorly so as to alert the doctors.
After he pushed the button during one summer practice, those doctors discovered the problem which will require surgery and force him to miss the 2018-19 campaign.
O’Neal will be considered a medical red shirt this season, and will still have four years of eligibility remaining when the 2019-20 season begins. He will also be eligible for the 2019 NBA Draft, but has not given any indication he plans on declaring.
(From left to right) Myles O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal, Shareef O’Neal and Shaqir O’Neal attend the 2018 NBA Awards Show at Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, California. Shareef was expected to play for UCLA this year, but will miss the season following heart surgery
The 6ft10 Shareef O’Neal originally committed to playing for coach Sean Miller at Arizona, but opted out of his letter of intent when the program was briefly embroiled in a recruiting scandal
‘So, the other day during routine checkup, we found a medical issue dealing with my heart,’ O’Neal told TMZ. ‘And thank God UCLA medical staff found it early, but causing this I will not be playing this season and I will be a medical redshirt. But during this time off, I’ll be off for a while, I’ll be focusing on academics, my health, of course, and I’ll just be observing to be the best player I can be next year.’
UCLA’s statement did not go into much greater detail.
‘Freshman Shareef O’Neal will be sidelined for the 2018-19 season (medical),’ the school said in a statement. ‘He will remain enrolled in class and on the men’s basketball team during this redshirt year. The UCLA men’s basketball program completely supports Shareef and his family as he gets this issue resolved.’
The 7ft1 Shaquille O’Neal was a two-time SEC Player of the Year at LSU before being selected with the first pick of the 1992 NBA Draft by the Orlando Magic
The loss is a significant one for coach Steve Alford’s Bruins, which assembled the country’s third-best recruiting class, according to ESPN.com.
Last year, UCLA’s season was overshadowed by an incident in China, when three freshman were caught shoplifting sunglasses from an upscale retailer. All three players were suspended for the year and LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of former Bruins and current Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo, left school entirely before playing professionally in Lithuania.
LiAngelo Ball was not selected during the 2018 NBA Draft.
O’Neal had originally committed to playing for coach Sean Miller at Arizona, but opted out of his letter of intent when the program was briefly embroiled in a recruiting scandal.
O’Neal insists he will be back in a Bruins uniform.
‘I know it’s an injury that requires surgery, so I’ll be having heart surgery and I’ll be out a couple months and after that I’ll be back,’ he said in the video. ‘A lot of people are asking if it’s career-ending. The answer is absolutely not. Just a little bump in the road. … During my rehab, I’ll be attending my classes and being a normal student. But that’s what’s going on, and I’d like to thank UCLA, my family, my teammates and everyone who supports me in this decision.’
The loss is a significant one for coach Steve Alford (pictured with his arms outstretched) and the Bruins. Last year, UCLA’s season was overshadowed by an incident in China, when three freshman were caught shoplifting sunglasses from an upscale retailer. All three were suspended for the year and LiAngelo Ball, the younger brother of former Bruins and current Los Angeles Lakers guard Lonzo, left school entirely before playing professionally in Lithuania
He also admitted that the news is depressing, particularly because so much was expected from O’Neal as a freshman.
‘I’m a little down,’ he said. ‘I feel like I was at my peak of basketball going into my freshman year and coming out of the state championship of high school. I felt like I was at the top of my game right now. Just trying to get better, getting stronger but then this happened. I’m just doing my best to focus on my health right now. ‘
The 46-year-old Shaquille O’Neal remains one of the game’s most identifiable figures, even in retirement. Besides his littany of endorsement deals, Shaq is watched by millions on the NBA on TNT’s pre-game and halftime shows.
The four-time NBA champion and 2000 NBA MVP was named to 15 All-Star teams, eight All-NBA First Teams, and was named NBA Rookie of the Year in 1993 after being taken out of LSU with the first pick of the 1992 NBA Draft.
As a high school senior, Shareef O’Neal was given five out of five stars by Rivals.com and ESPN.com, and four out of five stars by 247Sports.com