NCAA grants LSU forward Shareef O’Neal immediate eligibility

LSU forward Shareef O'Neal, who played in 12 games last season as a redshirt freshman for UCLA, has been granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA.

Just a week before LSU men’s basketball season opener, the NCAA finally granted Tigers’ transfer forward Shareef O’Neal a waiver to make him immediately eligible.

O’Neal, son of former LSU great and Naismith Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, announced the news Wednesday on Twitter.

“They cleared my waiver man!” O’Neal wrote. “Thank god I can play this season. I was waiting and scared it wasn’t gonna happen! Thank you so much.”

LSU opens the 2020-21 season with three games in the Golden Window Classic in Lincoln, Nebraska at the Pinnacle Bank Arena starting next Wednesday at 2 p.m. vs. San Francisco, followed by a 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day matchup against Western Kentucky and Saturday contest at 4 p.m. vs. Saint Louis.

Tigers’ head coach Will Wade had been confident that the 6-9 O’Neal, a third-year sophomore who left UCLA after last Jan. 21, would receive the waiver. He believes O’Neal can contribute immediately.

“He’s skilled, he can get on the offensive glass,” Wade said. “He’s a similar player to (current LSU junior starting forward Darius) Days.

Three seasons ago, O’Neal was an ESPN 100 recruit coming out of Santa Monica (Calif.) Crossroads High. He averaged 27.6 points and 17.3 rebounds per game during his senior season (2017-18) as Crossroads won the CIF Division II state title. 

O’Neal originally committed to Arizona before switching and signing with UCLA. He was preparing to start his college career when he said he “felt funny” during practices and was diagnosed with an anomalous coronary artery, a congenital heart defect that caused an artery to grow in the wrong place.

It required open-heart surgery to repair and he wasn’t cleared to return to the court until March of his true freshman year. By the time, O’Neal returned to action, UCLA switched coaches from Steve Alford to Mick Cronin.

O’Neal played 12 games for UCLA as a redshirt freshman under Cronin last season, averaging 2.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in 10.2 minutes off the bench.

After the fifth time he didn’t see action in UCLA’s first 18 games, he decided to transfer. He committed to LSU in February during the NBA All-Star break.

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