Shareef O’Neal, son of Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, will play for G League Ignite next season, according to Shams Charania. O’Neal, a 6-foot-10 big man, will receive a six-figure contract, though exact specifics are unclear at this time.
The younger O’Neal was a highly regarded recruit out of high school, and signed to play for UCLA after backing out of an initial commitment to Arizona. Before he could play, he was diagnosed with a congenital heart condition during a physical and had to undergo open-heart surgery. Though eventually cleared to return to the court, he played sparingly in one season at UCLA before transferring to LSU, where his father starred in the 1990s. After two seasons in Baton Rouge, where he also saw limited action due to foot and ankle injuries, he declared for the draft — against the wishes of his father.
“He wanted me to stay in school,” O’Neal said. “I wanted to better myself through this. He knows I’m working out with teams. But I’m not going to lie, we ain’t talked about this. I’m kind of just going through it. He didn’t do any pre-draft workouts; he just got straight on the [Orlando Magic], so it’s a different grind.
“So, he didn’t want me to do this, and I know he probably doesn’t want me saying this, but sorry. We’re both grown, we’ll get past it.”
As expected, O’Neal went undrafted earlier this year. He was able to latch on with the Los Angeles Lakers‘ Summer League team, however, and played six games between the California Classic and Las Vegas events. He averaged 4.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in Vegas, while shooting 44.4 percent from the field.
G League Ignite is a developmental team/program that competes in the G League and was founded in 2020 as an alternative to college basketball. Prospects can earn six-figure salaries to train and play in a professional environment where they receive high-level coaching, play a limited G League schedule and learn life skills such as financial literacy.
Notable former players include Jalen Green (No. 2 overall pick in 2021), Jonathan Kuminga (No. 7 pick in 2021) and Dyson Daniels (No. 8 pick in 2022). Scoot Henderson, a projected top pick in the 2023 draft, joined the team in 2021.