Shareef O’Neal’s lengthy and winding highway has solely simply begun

Regardless of his unsung standing as he neared his highschool commencement, the fortunate few who had been fortunate sufficient to see a teenaged Shaquille O’Neal play basketball knew they have been witnessing one thing particular.

Within the lyrics of Athleticism Brendan Quinn:

O’Neal now weighed almost 6-11 and 240 kilos. Every thing he did was radioactive and violent. The dunks. Blocks. He grabbed rebounds and dribbled the total size of the ground. He was large however performed with enviable dexterity. He seemed like a bully however smiled like a pet. All through the gymnasium, butts have been sliding ahead on the bleachers.

For novices and consultants alike, Shaq’s rising stardom within the NBA was unquestionably inevitable.

This isn’t the story of Shareef.

Nearing commencement from Crossroads College in Santa Monica, Calif. (full disclosure: additionally my alma mater, although we did not attend concurrently), Shareef — at the moment a freshman 4 star, thirty third within the nation, with hundreds of thousands of social media views on account of his Corridor of Fame pedigree — dedicated to enjoying school ball on the College of Arizona.

Whereas not fairly the prospect his dad was, the 6’10 Shareef seemed set to be on observe to strive his hand at a nationwide championship run with one of many nation’s collegiate powerhouses and win. the chance to indicate off as one of many nations. first newbie hopefuls.

Earlier than he might enroll, nonetheless, Arizona’s fee-for-service scandal emerged, triggering a collection of disengagements from the college, which included Shareef’s. As an alternative, he determined to make use of his abilities to UCLAhoping to make an impression on his hometown college’s basketball group.

Nonetheless, as an alternative of lastly beginning his school profession, Shareef encountered his largest impediment but, an irregular proper coronary artery that required open-heart surgery to correct, and value him a 12 months of athletics throughout his restoration. When he lastly returned to the sector, it was a freshman 12 months for the Bruins, ultimately enjoying simply 132 complete minutes over 13 video games.

On the finish of this season, he once more determined to switch. This time he headed east to his pop’s alma mater, USL. Though it looks as if a possibility for a storybook turnaround constructed on the again of his father’s legacy of dominance in school, Shareef’s two seasons because the Tiger went comparatively uneventfully as ‘he slipped off the perfect prospect lists whereas a few feet accidents restricted him to simply 2.8 factors per sport in 11.4 minutes per sport in his two seasons in LSU purple and gold.

After the 2021-22 season, Shareef’s second and last at LSU, he decided to re-enter the transfer portal as a way to discover a new, extra appropriate basketball residence to allow its improvement.

On the time, Shaquille supported his son’s determination to depart LSU for greener pastures on NBA on TNT “The Great Podcast.”

“Wherever he decides (to go), I am behind him,” Shaq stated. “He is a grown man making a choice and had plenty of unhealthy luck in basketball. We will LSU the place I assumed they’d care for him however they did not, they’ve their very own points. I hope that wherever he goes, he may have an opportunity.

Nonetheless, as an alternative of discovering a brand new residence as an newbie, Shareef determined to show professional by getting into the 2022 draft, a choice Shareef stated his father did not like as a lot.

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

“We form of stumble upon that course of. He needed me to remain at school. I needed to enhance myself by means of it. He is aware of that I work with groups. However I am not going to lie, we did not discuss it. I am going by means of it,” Shareef stated.

“He did not need me to try this, and I do know he in all probability would not need me to say that, however sorry.” We’re each adults, we are going to handle.

Shareef’s winding highway to date has apparently influenced his determination to keep away from his father’s recommendation – “He did not do any coaching earlier than the draft; he simply obtained straight to the purpose [Orlando Magic]so it is a totally different grind,” he stated of his dad’s journey – and after concluding the draft course of with no actual contenders, the Los Angeles Lakers determined to increase their dedication to the O’Neal legacy by providing a spot on the Summer season League roster to Shareef. .

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

Up to now, O’Neal’s statistical profile within the Summer season League is very similar to his low-minute averages in school. In two California Traditional video games, Shareef had 9 factors and seven rebounds in simply over 19 minutes of motion. In three video games in Vegas, Shareef averaged 4.3 factors and 4 boards in 12.2 minutes per contest.

Extrapolated to full-time numbers, Shareef’s stats aren’t too shabby, however Summer season League stats carry little weight over qualitative assessments in the case of prospect analysis.

In his early video games, Shareef seemed like a basketball JAG at greatest (simply one other man), and at worst, ill-equipped to deal with the tempo and physics {of professional} basketball. Leaping on the probability to dunk on a excessive profile prospect, NBA Twitter had a field day with Shareef’s poor projection open summer leaguebut at least a some others came to his defense.

Nonetheless, the early struggles are comprehensible for a man who barely performed top-level basketball in his 22 years, hardly performed often, and underwent 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 put him first on the draft boards and everywhere in the highlights as an newbie.

And whereas he missed his solely 3-point try in that sport, he drilled a protracted two within the subsequent sport, exhibiting off a clear shot, although he is nonetheless a great distance from turning into the “Giannis with a soar shot” that his father attributed. him to be again on the aforementioned podcast.

After the Hornets sport, I had the chance to ask Shareef if his first encounter with skilled basketball helped him really feel extra snug at this degree.

“I undoubtedly obtained extra reps at this degree than in…” Shareef stated, pausing to consider the final time he was capable of play constantly and freely was “. .. since highschool. In center college I did not have plenty of rehearsals, however you recognize right here it is a studying expertise.

“They throw guys on the market to study,” Shareef continued, valuing his improved sport. “I study loads each time I am going on the pitch, I study loads and I present increasingly more day by day. I can not wait to see what the longer term holds, however I’ve to take it someday to time. I really feel like I did properly tonight.

Nonetheless, it is as soon as once more the secondary spectacle surrounding this Hornets sport that has overshadowed any lucid evaluation of what Shareef can and might’t do on a basketball courtroom. With Scottie Pippen in attendance to watch Scotty was onerous to not discover the obtrusive absence of the person whose presence within the room would have been crucial in each conceivable approach.

When Shareef was requested concerning the significance of his household in serving to him by means of his hardships over the previous few years, represented by his sister’s presence on the sport that evening – albeit in an expert capability as an worker from the league to the Summer season League – he expressed nothing however love for his or her continued assist, “My household and I are very shut. They held me down after I was within the hospital for a number of weeks.

Shareef continued, “It was the closest my household has ever been. I’d do something for them… individuals who know us, they know my siblings and my mother and my dad, they name us greatest pals despite the fact that we’re all household.

Nonetheless, when contemplating Shaq’s previous admissions and present absence, Shareef’s protests are inclined to tackle a modicum of nostalgia for what is not versus a celebration of what’s.

Persevering with his household chat following his standout efficiency within the Summer season League, Shareef could not assist however flip his consideration to the 7’1″ elephant, over 300 kilos within the room, “My mum shall be there subsequent week, I do know she’s going to be screaming within the crowd and I hope my dad goes to look at a sport. My household is nice, all of them assist me.

From his feedback, it appeared that Shareef did not know if his father would make an look, however he sincerely needed to. Perhaps Shaq is busy doing adverts for fairly priced sedans, cut-rate insurance coverage to cowl them, or painkiller pads, however Shareef would not appear to know if that was the case or not.

With only one extra sport to go, it seems like Shaquille might lastly miss out on his son’s skilled league debut, which, as Shareef stated, would defeat his son’s ‘hope’.

From full assist of his determination to switch out of LSU, to rejection of his determination to show professional, and the next absence of Shareef’s skilled efficiency up to now, Shaquille O’Neal has distanced himself from his son as he undertakes his personal NBA journey. . And possibly that is for the perfect. One can solely think about how troublesome it have to be to develop up with a burning ardour to do the very factor that was successfully mastered by your individual father – not to mention in probably the most hyped approach doable. Maybe with some house from Shaq, Shareef may have a neater time manifesting an id, not in relation or in distinction to his father’s, however as his personal man. Look no additional than the secondary spectacle which was the looks of the elder Pippen in assist of his personal offspring – the pure comparisons between father and son spawned by their simultaneous presence would be the robber of pleasure.

Shareef’s contractual relationship with the Lakers ends with the conclusion of the Summer season League, however I’d be shocked to see their relationship finish in July. With some lofty objectives but to be realized and a storied historical past between the franchise and the identify he wears on the again of his jersey, I count on the Lakers to supply Shareef a spot of their South Bay group this coming season. With the chance to show the ball round in his life, Shareef has the possibility to create an impactful sport from the intriguing athleticism he has lengthy possessed.

Perhaps he has his dad to thank not less than partially for his peak, electrical jumps and actual luck with the Lakers, however as of now, solely Shareef O’Neal can manifest the ring goals he envisions overtly. to lastly obtain.

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

Shareef actually hopes so.

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

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