One of the last players Steve Alford signed to a letter of intent when he was head coach at UCLA was consensus four-star recruit Shareef O’Neal, the oldest son of NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal.
Could the two reunite in Reno?
That is the question many supporters of the Wolf Pack are asking after Shareef announced this week he was leaving UCLA and would enter the transfer portal. In his goodbye message to UCLA fans, which is in the tweet below, O’Neal included a line of thanks to Alford.
"I would live to give special thanks to Coach Steve Alford who recruited me here, Coach (Mick) Cronin for developing me and the awesome medical staff for giving me a second chance at fulfilling my dreams of playing on the next level," O'Neal wrote.
Coaches are not allowed to publicly comment on recruitable athletes, which O'Neal is since he's in the portal, but it's safe to say Nevada has an interest in O'Neal if he's interested in the Wolf Pack, although no official visit has been set at this point. A bevy of programs should be vying for O'Neal's services. Nevada has a spot available for O'Neal with one scholarship still to use in the 2020 class after the team signed five prep players in November's early-signing period. O'Neal's father is familiar with Nevada after serving as a guest speaker at the school's 2018 Governor's Dinner fundraiser.
The younger O'Neal has a different game than his father. At 6-foot-9 and 215 pounds, he's still big, but he grew up as a wing player with ball-handling, shooting and defending skills that were a little different than his father, who dominated the paint.
Shareef originally signed with Arizona in November 2017 before re-opening his committed in February 2018 after ESPN reported FBI wiretaps intercepted Wildcats coach Sean Miller discussing a payment to secure top recruit Deandre Ayton. Since O'Neal had signed a non-binding financial aid agreement with Arizona, he did not require a release from the school. O'Neal eventually signed with Alford and UCLA, which coincidentally helped Nevada land McDonald's All-American Jordan Brown.
O'Neal sat out his freshman season in 2018-19 after being diagnosed with a right anomalous coronary artery. He underwent open-heart surgery and was cleared to return to the court last March. As a redshirt freshman this year, O'Neal has been used sparingly. In 13 games, he's averaging 2.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while shooting 32.1 percent from the field. He played in 13 of UCLA's 18 games, averaging 10.2 minutes a contest. He played a career-high 20 minutes against San Jose State, tallying eight points and five rebounds while making 2-of-7 shots. His best game this season came against Notre Dame where he scored eight points with 11 rebounds in 17 minutes. He made 3-of-6 shots.
Barring a waiver to play immediately, O'Neal would have to redshirt as a transfer in 2020-21 before having two seasons of eligibility at his next school. Nevada has one Pac-12 big man, Oregon State transfer Warren Washington, sitting out this season, but could use some extra depth in its frontcourt.
O'Neal was rated by 247Sports.com as the No. 41 prospect in the nation in the 2018 class. Rivals.com pegged him at 40th in his class and ESPN at 32nd. Each had him as a four-star recruit.
A late bloomer, O'Neal played his high school ball at Crossroads High School in Santa Monica, Calif. He averaged 27.6 points and 17.3 rebounds per game as a senior, leading Crossroads to the CIF Division II state title with a 59-53 victory over Alameda. He had 29 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks in the state title win, which was Crossroad's first since 1997.