Shareef O’Neal — the son of former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal — will sit out of his freshman year on the UCLA basketball team to have life-saving heart surgery. O’Neal, who plays forward for the team, will be able to redshirt this season and come back next year to launch his college basketball career.
TMZ is reporting that O’Neal’s heart problem was discovered during a routine check-up by the UCLA medical team. The 18-year-old power forward says that he had no indication that he had a heart problem before this recent appointment — when the doctors “found a medical issue dealing with my heart.”
O’Neal didn’t specify the exact nature of the cardiac issue, but he says that he will be having surgery to correct it soon.
“Thank God the UCLA medical staff caught it early.”
Both dad Shaquille and mom Shaunie counseled Shareef about how to proceed, and he will stay in school while recovering from surgery — though he will not be playing basketball.
“During rehab, I’ll be attending my classes and being a normal student.”
Shareef is optimistic that he will be back on the hardcourt in no time, and this setback is “just a bump in the road.”
“I’ll be back in no time.”
Shareef O’Neal was one of the top high school recruits last year, and UCLA was thrilled to have him as their new forward.
The Daily Bruin is reporting that the 6’10 forward from the Crossroads School is going to remain enrolled throughout his recovery. UCLA is eager to have the younger O’Neal back on the team, as he was ranked 9th nationally in his position in the 2018 graduating class — and 32nd in the ESPN top 100.
UPI says that Shareef will have surgery soon and will be out for a couple of months. O’Neal tweeted that he feels very lucky.
“Blessed to be here living today, one of those moments on the court could’ve been my last… I will be back basketball world.. just wait on me I’ll miss you this year but you will always be with me.”
UCLA says that Shareef will not be leaving the men’s basketball team.
“Freshman Shareef O’Neal will be sidelined for the 2018-19 season [medical]. He will remain enrolled in class and on the men’s basketball team during this redshirt year. [UCLA] completely supports Shareef and his family as he gets this issue resolved.”
Shareef O’Neal averaged 27 points a game as a high school senior.