Shareef O’Neal, the eldest son of Shaquille and Shaunie O’Neal has followed in his father’s footsteps and is playing basketball at UCLA.
But in a recent announcement, he shared that he’ll have to take a brief hiatus from the sport as he prepares himself for heart surgery. O’Neal will be forced to sit out next season due to a heart issue that will require major surgery.
O’Neal discovered the heart condition during a routine checkup when doctors found a medical issue with his heart. The issue was enough that he would have to have surgery relatively soon.
In a conversation with TMZ Sports, O’Neal said, “Thank God the UCLA medical staff caught it early.”
O’Neal said he’s been speaking with his parents about how to best handle it. He said that he will not withdraw from school while recovering.
“During rehab, I’ll be attending my classes and being a normal student.”
O’Neal said he will return to the court in 2019 after redshirting during this upcoming season. The young O’Neal described the whole situation as “just a bump in the road,” saying, “I’ll be back in no time.”
He also offered encouragement to other young athletes who may be struggling on their own journey.
“The road to success is not always going to be a straight path. You have to go through some bumps and some bruises. It’s not always going to be easy. I’m a little down. I feel like I was at my peak in basketball. Going into my freshman year, coming out of a state championship in high school. Felt like I was at the top of my game. Trying to get better, get stronger. But then this happened so I’m just doing my best to focus on my health right now. But I wanted to make the announcement that I will not be playing this year.”
O’Neal said that he felt fine during high school but when he started playing during the summer, he told the trainer that he felt funny. They gave him a button that he could press during practices if he had a problem. And during one of the practices, he did and pressed it. And that’s when they discovered the issue.
O’Neal said, “Everybody’s happy we found it because if I was playing right now, I wouldn’t be talking to you.”
You can watch as he explains the situation in a video with TMZ Sports.
We’re wishing him all the best during his surgery, his recovery and his basketball career.