UCLA men’s basketball player Shareef O’Neal revealed on Friday that he will not participate during his freshman season because of a heart issue that will require surgery.
O’Neal is the eldest son of former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal and Basketball Wives executive producer Shaunie O’Neal. In a video interview with TMZ, the 18-year-old said the heart ailment was discovered by the university’s doctors. Although he must undergo surgery the condition is not expected to be career ending.
“Recently I found out I had a serious heart issue,” Shareef wrote on Instagram. “I am very blessed to be here living today, one of those moments on the court could’ve been my last breathe .. I will not be able to participate in sports this year but I will be back in no time .”
He continued, “I want to thank god for looking out for me , I want to thank UCLA , my teammates and most importantly my family … this is just a small bump on the road and I gotta push through it .. I am very down about not being able to do sport I love .. I really wanted this year I felt like I was at my best but this is just a minor setback.. my health is most important over everything.”
The Division I team confirmed the news and stated that the freshman will be placed on a medical redshirt season. “”The UCLA men’s basketball program completely supports Shareef and his family as he gets this issue resolved,” a spokesperson for the team said in a statement.
Shareef will remain enrolled at UCLA for the 2018-19 academic year. “During rehab, I’ll be attending my classes and being a normal student.”
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Christina Santi is a news and culture writer for EBONY.com. Born and raised in the Bronx, New York, she considers herself a well-read, not so traditional feminist with a heavy interest in music, fashion and pop culture. Christina currently lives in New York City, where she refers to her Cuban & Jamaican descent often while writing about her experiences as a first-generation Afro-Latinx in America. She also devotes time writing personalized reading material for her tutees and turning ideas into words for streetwear brand, PUER By Noel Bronson.