This evening, Shareef O’Neal announced on Twitter in a classy statement that he is the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball team and transferring out of UCLA.
Just wow. This is the most amazing transferring statement I can remember seeing. The line about “part of his heart” makes me like the kid even more. Giving credit to Coach Cronin for developing him is a class move.
Now what does this mean? Shareef was in a strange spot. He was a good outside shooter for his size, but too slow to play small forward. On the other hand, he was tall enough to play power forward, but too weak to rebound inside.
I realize that the latter will generate some debate. Some may say Cronin never gave him a chance and some saw him as a star before the season. Shareef was always overrated by some because he is the son of Shaq. His dad is a living legend. Shareef is not his dad.
Next, bigs usually take longer to develop. Before the season, it was hard to realistically see Shareef play a major role this season, given his year off from health issues and his need to learn and to get stronger to play against high major bigs.
The counter argument is: “What did Cronin have to lose by playing Shareef?” This season is already lost and it is hard to imagine a scenario in which UCLA goes to the postseason.
This brings up the last and most interesting point. Shareef was an Alford recruit. Alford loved stretch fours — guys who can rebound with the bigs and step out to hit threes.
Cronin likes traditional bigs who can bang inside and play hard-nosed defense. Shareef may have been a bad fit in a Cronin defense-first system vs. an Alford offense-first system.
Time will tell on how good Shareef really will become. For now, thanks, Shareef, for the maturity for a classy exit and good luck.