Shareef O’Neal: UCLA-Bound Forward Has Finesse in His Game

Photo courtesy of Position Sports.

By David Cordova

The game of basketball has become a position-less game, all because of forwards that 6-foot-6 and above playing the game like guards. The versatility of the big men are at an all-time high.

Two forwards that are in the NBA that exemplify those traits are NBA All-Stars such as Kevin Durant (Golden State Warriors) and Giannis Antentokoumpos, both of whom can dominate the game when they have the ball in their hands.

On the high school level, there are plenty of players that exemplify those traits, but many don’t do it as smoothly as Shareef O’Neal.

The 6-foot-10 senior forward is has some great post moves and can also shoot and pass the ball and has been on the Division I radar ever since his sophomore season of high school. O’Neal is ranked at No. 30 in the Class of 2018 by ESPN, due to his outstanding play.

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O’Neal looks to make his move against defender on the Nike EYBL circuit. (Photo courtesy of Position Sports/Jon Lopez)

When asked what motivates him to be successful in the game of basketball, O’Neal replied, “My parents and my family, they motivate me the most. My brothers and sisters, I feel like I’m a good role model for them, and they just motivate me to play, and do what I do best.”

Many, many years ago, there was another O’Neal on the scene, wreaking havoc on the court. It was his father, NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal, who played 19 seasons for six teams, most notably, the Orlando Magic, the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he won three NBA titles, and the Miami Heat, with whom he won a title in 2006.

When asked about what lessons the elder O’Neal has taught him, the younger O’Neal replied, “He taught me to always treat people the way I want to be treated, be a good person on and off the court. On the court, I could talk trash, you know I don’t always have to be a good person [on the court], but off the court, I just got to respect everybody, that’s the most important thing he told me, is to respect everybody and be polite to them.”

Many people may think that O’Neal has played basketball competitively all of his life, but it just so happens that he started playing the game on a competitively just four years ago. Before that, like any kid, he played for just the love of it.

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O’Neal with the one-handed dunk on the rim. (Photo courtesy of Position Sports/Jon Lopez)

In California, where he lives, the hardwood is a very popular game. When asked about how the hoops climate, he replied, “The Cali wave is just very smooth, all the players have their own style, and everybody out there is real trendy, and I love West Coast basketball, because everybody has their own style.”

O’Neal first attended Windward School in Los Angeles for his freshman and sophomore year, in which he first gained offers from local colleges such as UCLA and USC, and also Baylor, Kansas State and LSU early.

As a junior, he wound up transferring to the Crossroads School in Santa Monica, which is also the alma mater of former NBA player Baron Davis. That season, he averaged 14.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. This past season, as a senior, he led Crossroads to a 25-9 record and a CIF Division II state championship.

“I think I proved a lot,” said O’Neal about his senior season, “A lot of stuff happened with the situations, and I just kept my head up and played basketball, that’s what I was put here to do, and I just got to keep playing, and I’m going to be a remembered name in California basketball, so I’m just proud that I was able to make my mark on the state of California.”

On February 27th, O’Neal made his college choice and committed to UCLA. When asked what made him choose the Bruins, a historical college basketball program, he replied, “It’s close to home, that was my second choice, after Arizona, and most importantly, so my family can come watch me play, that’s my biggest fan group, my grandma, and everybody will be there. So, they can come watch me play, and I feel like I can fit in with the program, and they have people like Moses [Brown] coming in, and my good friend, Jules Bernard, David Singleton and Tyger [Campbell], and a lot of other people coming in, so we’ll be good.”

Another thing for O’Neal to look forward to is when he plays against his good friend, Bol Bol, who is rated as the No. 4 recruit in this year’s class by ESPN, and will be playing for Oregon next season in the same conference, the Pac-12.

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O’Neal dribbles down the court. (Photo courtesy of Position Sports/Jon Lopez)

When asked what it will be like playing against his old friend and former AAU teammate on the California Supreme, a program on the Nike EYBL circuit, he replied, “That’s my brother, I played against him before, that’s going to happen again, and I don’t know about the NBA, I don’t know if we’re going to be on the same team, or, a different team, but that’s my brother, always, on the court, we can play like we’re enemies, but off the court, that’s always my brother.”

A while back, O’Neal hinted on Twitter about playing basketball on the New York playgrounds, particularly the Dyckman Tournament in the Inwood section of Manhattan. But now that he’s headed to play college ball at UCLA, NCAA rules will prohibit him from participating in summer leagues outside of the 100-mile radius from his place of residence or school. At least until he turns pro, which could be in a couple of years.

When asked about his thoughts about coming out to the East Coast to play in a game, he replied, “I was out there for [the] Jordan Brand [Classic], I’m trying to come out there and play in one of those games, I’ve been invited to play in Dyckman and Rucker. I can’t do it anymore. But in the NBA, I can do it in the offseason, but I’d like to do it before high school is over.”

Next season, O’Neal will be a part of a talented recruiting class and will be putting in work at the legendary Pauley Pavilion game after game. If all goes well, he could be putting in seasonal work in the League soon enough. But for now, he’ll be focusing on getting stronger and getting prepared for Pac-12 play.

What’s next in the future for Shareef O’Neal? “Just becoming a better player, I just got to work on developing a lot, and I feel like I’ll be a whole different person at UCLA. After this summer, I should be working real hard, so everybody’s going to se a different person. ”

Highlights of Shareef O’Neal:

Courtesy of Home Team Hoops.

Courtesy of Home Team Hoops.

Courtesy of Home Team Hoops.

Courtesy of Baller Visions.

Courtesy of Baller Visions.

Courtesy of Overtime.

Courtesy of Baller Visions.

Courtesy of Ballislife.

Courtesy of Baller Visions.

Courtesy of Ballislife.

 

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