The Arizona Wildcats landed a high-profile recruit in Shareef O’Neal, the son of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, on Wednesday morning and later in the day he explained on TNT’s postgame coverage of the NBA Playoffs why he chose the Wildcats.
“Arizona, I love the school, the staff treats me like family,” Shareef told the TNT panel which included Shaq, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Ernie Johnson. “I went on a visit with my dad and … I loved it once I got there. The campus is beautiful and the program was awesome.”
Arizona’s style of play piqued O’Neal’s interest, too.
“The good thing about it was how the bigs get to play like guards and I think that’s a big part of my game today,” said Shareef, a 6-foot-9 forward. “... So I feel like I fit in there really well.”
There is still a long way to go before O’Neal’s career with Arizona begins, but if/when it does, Shaq will be a regular visitor at McKale Center.
But Shareef hasn’t always been a fan of playing in front of him.
“When I was younger it was really stressful for me to play in front of him because every time I messed up he was on me,” he said. “But now since I’m growing older it’s easier. I love when he comes to my games. He’s always there, he doesn’t say anything because I know what he wants me to do, and I know what I’m supposed to do and I know what he expects me to do.”
Smith joked that Shaq is “no LaVar Ball”, referring to Lonzo Ball’s father, who has made outlandish claims about Lonzo, including that he is currently a better player than Stephen Curry.
“He always tells me, even if I have a good or bad game, he tells me to keep going and keep working hard,” Shareef said of his father. “He’s been there through the good and bad and I love that he’s there at my games.”
Shareef was asked what he plans to work on before he arrives at Arizona, but the audio kept cutting out, leading to a joke from Barkley.
"If you would've went to Auburn, we would've gotten you a better phone,” quipped the former NBA star and Auburn standout.
O’Neal, a four-star prospect, is the No. 31 player in the 2018 recruiting class, per 247Sports.com.
He joins five-star prospect Emmanuel Akot as the second member in Arizona’s 2018 recruiting class.
You can watch Shareef’s full segment that was aired on TNT below:
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire