LOS ANGELES – UCLA freshman Shareef O’Neal will sit out the entire upcoming basketball season because of a heart condition that the son of Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal says is “risky.”
The younger O’Neal didn’t specify the condition in a TMZ Sports video , saying only that “I know it’s something serious and it’s risky.”
O’Neal said he will attend classes and take a medical redshirt. He’s expected to be sidelined for three to four months after undergoing surgery.
UCLA said in a statement Friday that it will support O’Neal as he gets the issue resolved. The school said only that he was being sidelined for a medical reason and a spokesman declined to provide further details.
O’Neal said doctors discovered the condition after he “felt funny” during summer practices. The 6-foot-10 forward wore a heart monitor attached to a button that he pressed whenever he wanted to send an alert. He received the diagnosis a few weeks after pressing the button during a practice.
O’Neal played the last two seasons at Crossroads High in nearby Santa Monica. As a senior last season, O’Neal helped the school win the CIF Division II state title for the first time since 1997. He had 29 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks in the title game. O’Neal averaged 27 points as a senior while Crossroads finished with a 25-9 record.
O’Neal said he’s been asked if the injury is career-ending.
“The answer is absolutely not. Just a little bump in the road,” he said in the video. “During my rehab, I’ll be attending my classes and being a normal student.”
O’Neal said the news has been difficult to endure.
“I’m a little down,” he said. “I feel like I was at my peak of basketball going into my freshman year and coming out of the state championship of high school. I felt like I was at the top of my game right now. Just trying to get better, getting stronger but then this happened. I’m just doing my best to focus on my health right now.”
O’Neal is the second member of UCLA’s frontcourt to be sidelined after forward Alex Olesinski was diagnosed this week with a stress fracture in his right foot that will force him to miss two to three months.
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