Unfair or not expectations have been set high for Shareef O'Neal, the son of former NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal.
At times over his first two years as a high school basketball player, the younger O’Neal lived up to those. Others he didn’t. But it was clear on Friday at the Tarkanian Classic that O’Neal has a desire to get better and has made improvements to his game over the last year, which is exactly what you want out of a freshman that oozes with so much potential.
O’Neal, a slender, 6-foot-9 standout at Santa Monica (Calif.) Crossroads, is mobile and a talented athlete at the power forward position. What stood out the most on Saturday was his effort and raise in production. O’Neal consistently played hard throughout the game against Brandon McCoy and although it was a tough match up against a physical senior, O’Neal certainly had his moments.
O’Neal showed improved confidence around the basket. This time last year he spent a lot of time on the perimeter, hunting jump shots. And while he can make catch and shoot jumpers (he hit one from 15-feet), it was encouraging to see him more comfortable around the basket, where he had a handful of tough finishes, including a left jump hook over an outstretched McCoy.
O’Neal finished with 15 points in the win and it was promising effort from the five-star recruit.
Q&A with Shareef O’Neal
Evan Daniels: It seems like you were consistently playing harder out there, is that something that you focused on?
Shareef O'Neal: Yeah a lot of people always told me earlier eighth grade, ninth grade and tenth grade that I wasn’t playing hard like the full game so I took that to the heart and made sure in practice that Ira is pushing me hard, my teammates are pushing me hard, so I just got to play and give it my all with a matchup like this and all the other teams we’re going to play are going to play hard so I got to bring my all.
You seem more comfortable around the basket too do you feel that?
Yeah I know I used to shy away from the basket when I was younger. I like getting in the paint now, I kind of like hitting and getting hit and all that now. It’s kind of like a weird thing to say now but I like physicality now.
Ira [Lee]. He’s practicing with me, he guards me all practice and I guard him all practice. Seeing how easy he can score like against my team and like him pushing me and hitting me made me way stronger and that helps a lot. My coaches, they’re always telling me like if I don’t score in the paint every time or dunk it every time I’m in the paint, just try to dunk, if I don’t dunk it there’s a punishment after practice. So like that consistency makes me want to play harder and like to get physical and try to get as close as I can so I can dunk it but just my coaches and Ira are the reason I’m playing more physical.
What about the recruiting process, how’s that going?
Good, same schools are recruiting me. A lot of new schools are coming in slowly hoping there’s just some coaches here that are interested because I’m trying to get all the schools as possible. I haven’t cut my list down yet but I’m going to try to cut it down soon. I’m just glad that there’s new schools coming in, still getting letters, lot of offers are coming in but hopefully there’s just more to come.
What schools do you feel like are prioritizing you?
Arizona, I speak to Arizona a lot. UCLA and USC, LSU of course and Texas Tech. But those are the schools I probably talk to the most, those schools their always texting me and inviting me to the games and just recently went to Arizona on a visit, I liked it a lot, the campus is nice, the program was awesome, watched my first Arizona game, and I just like how they play. So there’s a lot of schools that are texting me but those are the ones contacting me the most.