By Dylan Botelho, Staff Writer
Four-star power forward prospect, Shareef O’Neal, the son of Hall of Fame and All-Time great NBA center Shaquille O’Neal, has committed to the UCLA Bruins. O’Neal announced his decision on Tuesday night with an Instagram post in Bruins’ gear alongside his parents.
The 6’10” senior from Santa Monica Crossroads High School is known for his long-range shooting abilities for a big man and impressive rebounding skills likely learned from his once dominant father.
O’Neal was formerly committed to Arizona but de-committed from the University earlier in the week in wake of the controversial ESPN report surrounding head coach Sean Miller. Miller was allegedly heard on a wiretap discussing a payment of a whopping $100,000 payment to bring five-star center Deandre Ayton to the Wildcats prior to the season.
Miller has denied the allegations against him included in the ESPN recruit, saying “I never have, and I never will,” when asked about paying Ayton. According to a Sports Illustrated source, the FBI wiretaps used in the report did not begin until 2017, a few months after Ayton had already committed.
Either way, O’Neal has decided to part ways from the program and stay closer to home in Southern California. O’Neal posted and subsequently removed a tweet saying, “I’m glad everything over this cleared up! But I’ve made my decision That allegation has happened to the program twice while I was committed. I didn’t know what to expect, and I wanted to assure my play in the NCAA. I made a new decision and I’m sticking with it.”
O’Neal is the number 22 overall player in the 2018 senior class and the number 9 ranked player at his position of power forward. The Wildcats’ loss is the Bruins’ gain.
The late commitment to UCLA is a huge step forward for the program. After losing out on Ball brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo prior to the NCAA season, the Bruins have bounced back and currently have the number three ranked recruitment class behind only University of Oregon and the absolutely stacked class of Duke University. The Bruins now have one of most impressive frontcourts in the entire country. O’Neal will be joining five-star center Moses Brown and three-star center Kenneth Nwuba.
Along with Shareef O’Neal, the Bruins have another three 4-star recruits joining them in the fall. Point guard Tyger Campbell and shooting guards Jules Bernard and David Singleton III make for a stacked Bruins back court. With a starting lineup possibly consisting of a five-star center, a four-star back court, a four-star power forward, and current Bruins Kris Wilkes if he decides to play another year, UCLA will boast one of the youngest, deepest, and most talented teams in the entire country.
The Arizona Wildcats however, have a dwindling recruiting class for the next season. Point guard Brandon Williams also backed out of his commitment, announcing his decision via Twitter. Under Sean Miller, the Wildcats have only ranked outside of the top ten in recruitment classes just twice in 2010 and then again in 2013, which the program ranked just outside at number 11.