Arizona’s loss has officially become UCLA’s gain.
In the immediate aftermath of ESPN’s report regarding Arizona Wildcats head coach Sean Miller potentially in contact with an agent surrounding a $100,000 payment for Deandre Ayton, one of Arizona’s few remaining recruits for the 2018 cycle, 4-star power forward Shareef O’Neal from Santa Monica Crossroads, decommitted from the Wildcats. Less than 3 days later, 247Sports reporter Josh Gershon revealed that O’Neal had changed his commitment, and has committed to playing basketball for the UCLA Bruins.
#UCLA lands commitment from former #Arizona pledge Shareef O'Neal, a Top 35 2018 PF from Santa Monica (Calif.) Crossroads: https://t.co/yCqk3PD6OT pic.twitter.com/kLM8yWHgJU— Josh Gershon (@JoshGershon) February 28, 2018
O’Neal, listed at 6’9” and 205 lbs, is the #33 prospect in the nation according to 247Sports’ Composite Rankings, and is a consensus 4-star prospect. 247Sports Composite Rankings have him listed as the 9th best power forward in the nation, and the 4th best prospect in California. O’Neal is known as a face-up power forward with a solid outside shot, which means he can slot in perfectly as a stretch 4 for the Bruins.
Shareef O’Neal had committed to Arizona back in April of 2017, but with the uncertainty surrounding Arizona in the wake of Arizona’s first big scandal of the 2017-2018 basketball season, in which the FBI arrested then-current Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson, O’Neal chose to sign a non-binding scholarship agreement with the Wildcats in November. This is, honestly, something that more recruits should consider doing, as it binds the school to the player but gives the player an easy way to not end up at a school if, say, a coach is fired, or the school faces further investigation. In this case, it allowed O’Neal to easily change his commitment from a program mired in controversy to one with....well, there’s still some controversy, but at least it isn’t at FBI investigation-levels yet.
And, of course, we are obligated by internet rules to mention Shareef’s famous father, Los Angeles Lakers royalty and NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal. Although O’Neal’s TV commitments may make it difficult for him to attend home games with any regularity, it will still be rather cool to see Shaq prowling the sidelines at Pauley Pavilion alongside so many other stars.
O’Neal’s commitment helps to bolster a UCLA 2018 recruiting class that now sits in 3rd in 247Sports Composite team rankings. The Bruins have cleaned up nicely since the initial signing period, adding 5-star C Moses Brown and 4-star PG Tyger Campbell in the previous weeks prior to Shareef’s commitment.
Welcome to Westwood, Shareef!