Like father, like son. Shaq’s son Shareef O’Neal has decided to transfer to the same college his father went to, LSU (Louisiana State University), in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
In an interview done last Friday, Shareef told Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated Magazine that he was ready to make the move. Shareef already knows the comparisons he’s going to face. Talking to SI, he said there would be some “Real big footsteps,” to follow in. Shaq was a two-time All-American at LSU. Still, the younger O’Neal says he’s ready for the challenge: “I’m ready for it. Great program. Louisiana is a different scene. I’ve been in L.A. most of my life, but I’m ready for it.”
Officially, O’ Neal will enroll at LSU in June, but it’s not yet known how long he’ll have to sit out as a transfer. Shareef originally committed to long-time basketball powerhouse Arizonoa, but switched to UCLA after the the news broke of a payoff and wiretap scandal involving the Wildcats head coach Sean Miller.
After that move, there was more trouble for O’Neal himself. He took time off the game for a medical redshirt as a freshman…that after doctors discovered he had a minor heart condition, for which he underwent surgery.
After successful surgery, O’ Neal did make it back to the court, but only ended up playing in 13 games as a Bruin. Now with him transferring to LSU, O’ Neal can expect more playing time and a ton of comparisons to his father, the Hall of Famer.
ESPN rankings put Shareef O’Neal at number 32 in the “100 for 2018” rankings. During his time at UCLA, he averaged 2.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in just 10.2 minutes average playing time per game.
One reason for the lack of minutes was the heart condition, described as a right anomalous coronary artery. After open-heart surgery, he was cleared to return to the court last March.
There’s going to be more than playing at his father’s college driving Shareef as he gets back to the game he loves. He told Sports Illustrated how much the death of his friend Kobe Bryant has increased his focus and drive. “I feel like it changed my basketball drive to, like, times 10. I’m going to do it for him because I know he would want me to do well.”
As for those big shoes, here’s a few more stats: Shaq was the inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (for college players) in 2016. He played for the Tigers of LSU from 1989 to 1992, where he was the Associated Press’ men’s college basketball player of the year in 1991. His jersey – No. 33 – was retired by the school.
And finally, how about this for a constant reminder? Shareef will literally be in his father’s shadow during practice times at college. LSU installed a statue of Shaq making one of his trademark dunks outside its men’s basketball practice facility in 2011.