Shareef O'Neal's

Shareef O’Neal’s lengthy and winding highway is simply starting

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Regardless of his unheralded standing as he neared his highschool commencement, the fortunate few who’d had an opportunity to look at a teenage Shaquille O’Neal play basketball knew that they had been witnessing one thing particular.

Within the phrases of The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn:

O’Neal was now almost 6-11 and 240 kilos. Every thing he did was radioactive and violent. The dunks. The blocks. He grabbed rebounds and dribbled the size of the ground. He was large however performed with enviable dexterity. He appeared like a bully however smiled like a pet. All through the health club, butts slide ahead on bleachers.

To novices and consultants alike, Shaq’s rising NBA stardom was unquestionably inevitable.

That isn’t Shareef’s story.

Nearing commencement from Crossroads College in Santa Monica, California (full disclosure: additionally my alma mater, although we didn’t attend concurrently), Shareef — by then, a four-star recruit, thirty third within the nation, with tens of millions of views on social media because of his Corridor of Fame pedigree — dedicated to play school ball on the College of Arizona.

Although not fairly the prospect his dad was, the 6’10 Shareef gave the impression to be on monitor to take a crack at a Nationwide Championship run with one of many nation’s collegiate hoops powerhouses in addition to earn a chance to indicate out as one of many nation’s premier newbie prospects.

Earlier than he was capable of enroll, nonetheless, Arizona’s pay-for-play scandal emerged, triggering a string of decommitments to the college, amongst which included Shareef’s. As a substitute, he determined to take his skills his to UCLAhoping to make an influence on his hometown faculty’s basketball group.

Nevertheless, as an alternative of lastly beginning his collegiate profession, Shareef encountered his biggest impediment thus far, a proper anomalous coronary artery which required open-heart surgical procedure to appropriate, and price him a yr of athletics whereas in restoration. When he finally returned to the courtroom, he it was as a freshman for the Bruins, finally enjoying simply 132 complete minutes throughout 13 contests.

On the finish of that season, he once more determined to switch. This time, he headed eastward in direction of his pop’s alma mater, LSU. Regardless of seeming like a chance for a storybook turnaround constructed upon the again of his father’s legacy of dominance whereas on the faculty, Shareef’s two seasons as a Tiger had been comparatively uneventful as he slid off of prime prospect lists whereas a number of ft accidents restricted him to simply 2.8 factors per sport in 11.4 minutes per contest throughout his two seasons in LSU’s purple and gold.

After the 2021-22 season, Shareef’s second and ultimate at LSU, he determined to enter the switch portal once more with a purpose to discover a new basketball dwelling extra suited to enabling his growth.

On the time, Shaquille backed his son’s choice to depart LSU for greener pastures on NBA on TNT’s “The Massive Podcast.”

“Wherever he decides (to go) I am behind him,” Shaq stated. “He is a grown man making a choice and he has kinda had a whole lot of basketball dangerous luck. We go to LSU the place I assumed they might deal with him however they did not, they’ve their very own issues down there. I hope wherever he goes he will get a shot.

Nevertheless, as an alternative of discovering a brand new dwelling as an newbie, Shareef determined to show professional by getting into the 2022 Draft, a choice Shareef stated his father wasn’t as keen on.

After a pre-draft exercise with the LakersShareef opened up concerning the disagreement between him and his father.

“We form of bump heads about this course of. He wished me to remain at school. I wished to higher myself by means of this. He is aware of I am figuring out with groups. However I am not going to lie, we ain’t talked about this. I am form of simply going by means of it,” Shareef stated.

“He did not need me to do that, and I do know he most likely would not need me saying this, however sorry. We’re each grown, we’ll get previous it.”

Shareef’s winding highway up to now has apparently influenced his choice to eschew his father’s recommendation — “He did not do any pre-draft exercises; he simply received straight on the [Orlando Magic]so it is a completely different grind,” he stated of his father’s journey — and after concluding the draft course of with none actual suitors, the Los Angeles Lakers determined to increase their dedication to the O’Neal legacy by providing a Summer time League roster spot to Shareef .

And now, with 5 video games as a Laker within the bag, Shareef’s personal confrontation with Shaquille has served as the general public backdrop to the beginning of his skilled profession.

Up to now, O’Neal’s statistical profile in Summer time League appears rather a lot like that from his low-minute averages in school. Over two California Traditional video games, Shareef put up 9 factors and seven rebounds in simply over 19 minutes of motion. In three Vegas video games, Shareef has averaged 4.3 factors and 4 boards in 12.2 minutes per contest.

Extrapolated out to full-time numbers, Shareef’s stats aren’t too shabby, however Summer time League stats carry little weight in comparison with qualitative assessments on the subject of prospect analysis.

In his first few video games, at greatest, Shareef appeared like a basketball JAG (simply one other man), and at worst, ill-equipped to deal with the tempo and physicality {of professional} basketball. Leaping on the alternative to dunk on a high-profile prospect, NBA Twitter had a area day with Shareef’s mediacre displaying to open Summer time Leaguealthough a minimum of a few others got here to his protection.

Nonetheless, early struggles are comprehensible for a man who’s scarcely performed high-level basketball in his 22 years, nearly by no means performed constantly, and had open-heart surgical procedure simply three calendar years in the past.

However within the Lakers’ second sport in Vegas, Shareef confirmed flashes of the athleticism that when had him within the prime tier of draft boards and throughout spotlight reels as an newbie.

And whereas he missed his lone 3-point try throughout that sport, he drilled an extended two within the following one, showcasing a clear capturing stroke, even when he is nonetheless a methods away from turning into the “Giannis with a leap shot” his father ascribed him to be again on the aforementioned podcast.

After the Hornets sport, I received an opportunity to ask Shareef whether or not his first style {of professional} basketball had helped him get extra snug enjoying at that stage.

“I for certain have gotten extra reps at this stage than I’ve in…” Shareef stated, pausing to consider when the final time he received to play this constantly and freely was “…since highschool. In school I did not get too many reps however right here, it is a studying expertise.”

“They throw guys on the market to be taught,” Shareef continued, assessing his improved play. “I am studying rather a lot each time I’m going out on the ground I am studying rather a lot and displaying increasingly every day. I can not wait to see what the longer term holds, however I’ve received to take it someday at a time. I really feel like I did all proper tonight.”

Nevertheless, it was once more the sideshow surrounding that Hornets sport that overshadowed any clearheaded evaluation of what Shareef can and may’t do on a basketball courtroom. With Scottie Pippen in attendance to look at Scotty was laborious to not discover the obvious absence of the person whose presence would have been the biggest within the room, in each conceivable respect.

When Shareef was requested concerning the significance of his household in serving to him by means of his trials of latest years, represented by his sister’s presence on the sport that evening — although in an expert capability as a league worker at Summer time League — he expressed nothing however love for his or her continued assist, “Me and my household are actual shut. They held me down once I was within the hospital for a number of weeks.”

Shareef continued, “That was the closest my household has ever been. I would do something for them… individuals who know us, they know that my siblings and my mother and pop, they name us like greatest mates though we’re all household.”

Nevertheless, when contemplating Shaq’s prior admissions and current absence, Shareef’s protestations are inclined to tackle a modicum of eager for what is not versus a celebration of what’s.

Persevering with his familial dialogue within the wake of his standout Summer time League efficiency, Shareef could not assist flip his consideration to the 7’1”, 300-plus pound elephant within the room, “My mother will probably be right here subsequent week, I do know she’s going to be yelling within the crowd and hopefully my dad comes out to a sport. My household’s superior, they’re all supporting me.”

From his feedback, it sounded as if Shareef did not know whether or not his dad would make an look, however that he genuinely wished he would. Possibly Shaq’s busy making adverts for fairly priced sedans, cut-rate insurance coverage to cowl them, or ache reduction pads, nevertheless it didn’t seem that Shareef knew whether or not that was the case or not.

With just one extra sport to go, it appears as if Shaquille would possibly finally sit out his son’s skilled league debut, which, as Shareef acknowledged, would go in opposition to his son’s “hope.”

From complete assist of his choice to switch out of LSU to a rejection of his choice to show professional, and subsequent absence from Shareef’s skilled performances thus far, Shaquille O’Neal has distanced himself from his son as he units out on his personal NBA journey . And perhaps that is for one of the best. One can solely think about how laborious it have to be rising up with a burning ardour to do the very factor that was successfully mastered by your personal father — not to mention within the highest profile manner doable. Maybe, with some house from Shaq, Shareef can have a better time manifesting an identification, not in relation to or distinction along with his father’s his, however as his personal man. Look no additional than the sideshow that was the elder Pippen ‘s look his in assist of his personal progeny — the pure comparisons between father and son spawned by their simultaneous presence his might be the thief of pleasure.

Shareef’s contractual reference to the Lakers ends with the conclusion of Summer time League, however I might be shocked to see their relationship finish this July. With some lofty targets which have but to be realized and a storied historical past between the franchise and the identify he wears on the again of his jersey, I anticipate the Lakers to supply Shareef a spot on their South Bay squad this upcoming season. With a chance to show ball into his life his, Shareef has an opportunity to construct an impactful sport out of the intriguing athleticism he is lengthy possessed.

Possibly he has his dad to thank a minimum of partially for his peak, electrical hops, and an actual likelihood with the Lakers, however from right here on out, solely Shareef O’Neal can manifest the ring desires he overtly envisions finally reaching.

And perhaps as soon as that is established, his dad can present up and share within the enjoyable.

Shareef actually hopes so.

Cooper is a lifelong Laker fan who has additionally coated the Yankees at SB Nation’s Pinstripe Alley — no, he is not additionally a Cowboys fan. You may hear him on the Lakers Multiverse Podcast and discover him on Twitter at @cooperhalpern.

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