The 6-foot-9-inch O’Neal spent last season playing alongside incoming UA freshman Ira Lee in the frontcourt at Crossroads School of Santa Monica. Chad Beeten, who coached Crossroads last season before resigning, said he would play them together at forward or sometimes move Shareef on the wing with Lee inside.
“He definitely got better and was more aggressive,” Beeten said of O’Neal. “His motor is increasing and the best part of his game is his versatility. He’s got a very good skill set. He can play on the wing because of his shooting ability and I think he’ll be able to play with his back to the basket as well.”
O’Neal also has connections to Arizona through the California Supreme club program, where UA senior guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright played as well as UA signee DeAndre Ayton.
Having seen O’Neal play for the club the past two seasons, Cal Supreme director Gary Franklin said O’Neal’s best basketball is ahead of him.
“He’s more confident in his overall game,” Franklin said. “I would say he’s a stretch four but he’s got some wing attributes as well where he can go the length of the floor and make a pass, dunk or pull up. We’ve seen his skills get better and better.”
O’Neal is playing a final spring and summer with Cal Supreme, and he’ll have one more year in high school before joining the Wildcats during the summer of 2018.
While efforts to reach O’Neal were unsuccessful Wednesday, Gershon said his early commitment suggests he found a good potential fit in Arizona.
“He didn’t go through a legitimate recruiting process and decided Arizona is what he was looking for in a school,” Gershon said. “He realized there was no reason for him to go through any more.”
Franklin said O’Neal also enjoyed his Nov. 18 visit to Arizona, when he and Shaq took in UA’s win over Sacred Heart, and that Shareef was familiar with the state while living in Phoenix. Shaquille O’Neal played for the Phoenix Suns from 2007-09.
Shareef O’Neal also told the Star last July that he’s “like a cousin” of former UA walk-on Quentin Crawford, whose father has been Shaq’s bodyguard and longtime close friend.
O’Neal became the Wildcats’ second commitment from the class of 2018, after Manitoba forward Emmanuel Akot committed last month. Arizona is also still recruiting for the class of 2017, with at least one spot still available.