Like father like son: Shareef O’Neal heads to LSU

Shareef O’Neal is following his Hall of Fame father’s path and will transfer to LSU, he told Sports Illustrated.

“Real big footsteps,” he said in explaining his decision to play at the same school where Shaquille O’Neal was a two-time All-American. “But 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.”

O’Neal played in 13 games for UCLA this season before announcing last month that he would be transferring out of the program. O’Neal, the No. 32 recruit in the ESPN 100 for the 2018 class, was averaging 2.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 10.2 minutes.

The 6-foot-9 O’Neal sat out his first season at UCLA after being diagnosed with a right anomalous coronary artery and undergoing open-heart surgery to correct the issue. He was cleared to return to the court last March.

O’Neal also told Sports Illustrated about the final text he received from Kobe Bryant, who was among nine people killed in a helicopter crash Jan. 26. He said Bryant regularly checked in on him and that the message is now the background image for his cellphone.

“[Bryant’s death] made me focus more,” he told SI. “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.”

Shaquille O’Neal, a 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, played for the Tigers from 1989 to 1992. He was the Associated Press’ men’s college basketball player of the year in 1991, and his No. 33 was retired by the school.

Shareef O’Neal could literally be in his father’s shadow at times at LSU, as the school installed a statue of Shaq dunking outside its men’s basketball practice facility in 2011.

Information from ESPN’s Jeff Borzello was used in this report.

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