Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Shareef O’Neal, attended pre-NBA Draft practice at the Lakers facility on Tuesday against his father’s wishes.
Shaq – whose No. 34 Lakers jersey was retired by the team in 2013 – preferred his 22-year-old son to stay in school, but Shareef insists he’s ready for the dive of the NBA.
“We kind of bump into that process,” the younger O’Neal told reporters on Tuesday – two days before the 2022 NBA draft – at the Lakers training center, adding that he hadn’t relied on his father for guidance throughout the process.
Shareef, like his father, attended LSU, but had a very different story than his father. He played a total of 37 games over three seasons with UCLA and LSU due to a number of health issues – and averaged 11 minutes, three rebounds and 2.6 points per game. He had open heart surgery during his freshman year (December 2018) at UCLA and was sidelined with foot and ankle injuries during his two seasons at LSU.
“He wanted me to stay in school. I wanted to improve on that,” Shareef said of his dad — who dominated at LSU before becoming No. 1 in Orlando in the 1992 NBA draft. “He knows I work with teams . But I’m not going to lie, we didn’t talk about it. I’m just going through it. He didn’t do any practice before the draft; he just got straight to the point [Orlando Magic]so it’s a different version.
“So he didn’t want me to do that, and I know he probably doesn’t want me to say that, but sorry.” We are both adults, we will manage.
The Lakers have no picks in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night, but have continued to hold pre-draft workouts with young talent including Jordan Hall (St. Joseph’s), Cole Swider (Syracuse) , Orlando Robinson (Fresno State), Kyler Edwards (Houston) and Isaiah Whaley (UConn).
“I feel like he and I have a whole different story now,” Shareef said when asked if he felt any pressure from his father’s legacy. “I experienced things that he did not experience. He was the No. 1 pick in the draft. I had to manage to get here. I had to work a lot. I’ve had to go through hardships over the past four years – foot injuries, heart surgeries – and I don’t really seem to be in his shadow.
O’Neal — a 6-foot-10, 215-pound forward — attended the G League Elite prospect camp last month.
“I felt like at university I didn’t have enough opportunities. I didn’t feel like myself in college,” he said. “[The invite] kind of opened a lot of doors for me. … I feel like it really brought me back and showed a little bit what I can do. And once I started getting calls from teams to practice, I was like, ‘Man, this is what I want to do.’ I mean, I’m here, it’s right in front of me, so go ahead. So I continued to work. »
O’Neal said Shaq “didn’t like the idea at all” when his son decided to do an NBA push. It’s quite possible that Shareef won’t be drafted Thursday night and he’ll have to work his way up the league as a free agent.
“It sucks he doesn’t like the idea, but I’m a grown man, I’m 22, I can make my own decisions,” Shareef said. “It was right in front of my face. I’m not backing down from it. I’ll go get it if I see it. It’s how I’m built. I take everything the same. I had my surgery heart in the same way.
“Being cleared was right in front of me, being healthy was right in front of me, and I went for it. I don’t back down from anyone. I know he’s an NBA legend, I know he’s my dad, but it was right in front of me, I had to go get him. So whether he likes it or not, it’s not really going to stop me from doing what I want to do.
Shareef showed up at the Lakers facility, where he wore No. 6 during pre-draft practice.
“Let’s hope LeBron [James] don’t get mad,” he said. “I had his [No. 6] training shirt.