2022 NBA Draft: Shareef O’Neal was ‘starstruck’ understanding for Lakers

Shareef O’Neal has seen the Lakers are their very best. Born months earlier than the primary of the Lakers three-straight titles within the early 2000s, he remembers going to video games and championship parades as a child, cheering on his father Shaq in his No. 34 jersey.

These reminiscences are what made him starstruck and speechless forward of his predraft exercise on Tuesday. Nevertheless it got here as a bittersweet second, having returned to Los Angeles donning the purple and gold however with out the steering of his father throughout this complete course of.

“I walked in in the present day and I used to be type of starstruck,” Shareef mentioned. “Like, I used to be actually born into this workforce. My dad and Kobe received championships once I was born and now it is me placing on the Lakers gear. It was loopy. I used to be speechless, type of.

“It is such a blessing for a workforce I grew up watching. My dad received championships with this workforce and now that I’ve on Lakers stuff, it is wonderful. It is a dream come true. ”

It was not solely a celebratory homecoming for Shareef, although. He additionally revealed that he and his dad disagreed about what path he ought to take this spring, Shaq wishing for his return to LSU to proceed his training with Shareef choosing an opportunity to grab his NBA dream. The consequence has left Shareef navigating the predraft waters with out his father by his facet.

“Me and him have type of bumped heads about this course of,” Shareef mentioned. “He needed me to remain at school. I needed to higher myself and undergo this. He is aware of I am understanding for groups however I am not going to lie, we now have not talked about this. I am type of simply going via it. He didn’t do any predraft exercises. He simply obtained straight on a workforce. It is a totally different grind. However he didn’t need me to do that. I do know he most likely he doesn’t need me saying this but it surely’s alright, we’m each grown. We’ll get previous it. ”

It is with these blended feelings that Shareef took half in his newest exercise, on one hand inches away from his lifelong dream and then again, doing it with out a man synonymous with the Lakers franchise.

Shareef’s school profession was riddled with ups and downs, largely resulting from accidents. Frustration predictably set in as he declared for the draft with out signing an agent initially. An invitation to the G League Elite camp “opened plenty of doorways,” as Shareef mentioned, and paved the way in which for exercises with groups. Along with his dream beginning to materialize in entrance of him, Shareef lept on the alternative by remaining within the draft, leaving LSU – and subsequently his father – behind.

“It type of made it somewhat scary for me,” Shareef mentioned of going via the predraft course of with out his dad alongside him. “He is massive on training and I really feel like in school, I used to be not getting a chance. I used to be not feeling like myself in school.

“As soon as I began getting calls from groups to work out, I used to be like ‘Man, if that is what I wish to do, it is proper in entrance of me. Simply go for it. ‘ So I continued the work. He didn’t like the concept in any respect, ”Shareef added. “It sucks that he didn’t like the concept however I am a grown man. I am 22 years previous, I could make my very own selections. It was proper in entrance of my face, I am not backing up from it. I’ll get it if I see it. That is simply how I am constructed.

“I take the whole lot the identical. I took my coronary heart surgical procedure the identical approach. Being cleared was proper in entrance of me, being wholesome was proper in entrance of me and I went for it. I am not backing down for nobody. I do know he is an NBA legend, I do know he is my dad. Nevertheless it was proper in entrance of me. I needed to go get it. If he likes it or not, that is probably not going to cease me from doing what I wish to do. Like I mentioned, I wish to play basketball, I wish to get it. So, I am right here. ”

As tough because the waters could have been in latest weeks and months between Shareef and Shaq, he was in a position to reminisce, with a smile, rising up across the franchise.

“After I would come to the Lakers video games, I’d at all times have the yellow 34 jersey on,” he mentioned. “I used to be my dad’s greatest fan once I was little child. I used to go to each single sport. Seeing him and Kobe do this, seeing him win championships, I used to go to parades and all that stuff. I have been round this franchise for a very long time. ”

There’s an inherent strain and expectation that comes with being the son of an NBA participant, not to mention Corridor of Famer and legend. However that strain hasn’t impacted Shareef all through the years. In reality, he doesn’t even like utilizing the phrase.

“One factor about me, I do probably not maintain the phrase strain in my vocabulary,” Shareef mentioned. “Strain does make diamonds. I really feel like me and him have an entire totally different story now. I went via issues that he didn’t undergo. He was the No. 1 choose within the draft and I type of needed to grind to get right here. I needed to grind rather a lot. I needed to undergo some stuff these final 4 years – foot accidents, coronary heart surgical procedures – and I don’t look to be in his shadow. I do know it is at all times going to be there, a comparability.

“Each child’s going to get in comparison with their dad who does the identical factor as them. That is going to be there. That doesn’t hassle me. I do probably not imagine in strain. I really feel like I play my very own model of sport. Me and him are totally different gamers. He was again down, again down, dunk on you, 7’1 ”, 300 kilos. I am 6’10 ”, 215 (kilos). I don’t play that again down sport. The bigs within the league now carry the ball down and shoot threes. I feel he solely had one three in his complete profession. No disrespect however you may have to have the ability to knock a shot down now. I really feel like I play an entire totally different sport rising up. ”

It is true that Shareef’s sport barely resembles that of his father. Nor does his journey, which has included a number of begins and stops since highschool. No scare was probably larger than the center situation he was identified with and had surgical procedure for previous to his freshman season at UCLA in 2018.

Picture by Brian Rothmuller / Icon Sportswire by way of Getty Photos

After being medically redshirted, Shareef returned to courtroom the next season beneath a brand new head coach and performed simply 13 video games. He introduced in February of 2020 that he can be transferring to LSU, however his destiny was not a lot totally different as a foot damage meant he performed simply 24 video games throughout two seasons in Baton Rouge.

“I really feel like I have not gotten an opportunity to point out what I used to do again in highschool,” Shareef mentioned. “I do probably not depend highschool basketball as my full potential however I really feel like I used to be by no means actually at it as a result of I used to be enjoying with an unhealthy coronary heart my complete life. Simply obtained it fastened a couple of years in the past and I am getting again to it.

“I work each day. Someday, that full potential goes to return out. Nonetheless must get sooner, stronger. Nonetheless have to enhance the whole lot. Persons are going to see actual quickly. I am able to play basketball. I am working, attempting to get to my objectives and desires, for positive. However I really feel like individuals haven’t seen that full Shareef but and I’ll get to it for positive. ”

Maybe the Lakers will likely be that workforce that may unlock his potential. It looks like an virtually certainty that Shareef is not going to be drafted on Thursday. He’s not listed among the many prime 100 prospects by Sam Vecenie or The Athletic neither is he listed among the many prime 100 Finest Obtainable prospects by DraftExpress.

However that doesn’t change how shut he’s to reaching his dream, nor the feelings he skilled on Tuesday returning again dwelling, with or with out his father.

“I advised my household I had a Lakers exercise and so they’re all excited,” Shareef mentioned. Grandma (was) actually excited as a result of they by no means actually thought I might be on this place. At all times thought my dad can be within the Lakers gear however now it is me getting an opportunity to placed on these colours. It is superior. ”

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