The draft process for the Los Angeles Lakers extended past just taking Michigan State’s Max Christie with the 35th overall pick in their second round.
Doing their due diligence by picking up promising young talent through the two-way contracts and Summer League signings, the Lakers have set themselves up with a great prospect pool to evaluate.
One of the most noteworthy signings to the Lakers’ Summer League roster is LSU’s Shareef O’Neal, the son of legendary Lakers big man Shaquille O’Neal.
The unique journey O’Neal went through in college at UCLA and LSU makes his shot at an NBA roster with the Lakers even more special. After undergoing open-heart surgery in 2018 and dealing with foot injuries in 2020 and 2021, O’Neal’s comeback story has been set up for excellent heights.
After his pre-draft workout with the Lakers on June 21, O’Neal was asked about the current status of his health after recovering from both the heart and foot issues:
“I remember it was a few years ago at LSU and I called my mom and I was like today was the first day I played basketball and I didn’t think about my heart. I feel like that was the turn for me. I’m healthy,” O’Neal said. “I got a scar on my chest, I went through that, so what. I don’t think about that no more, it’s not gonna affect me playing basketball. If it mentality got to me, I wouldn’t want to continue to play basketball. My whole goal is to get to my goals and get to my dreams.
“I kind of treated that heart surgery like it was a sprain, I just wanted to get through it and keep getting back to what I did. I don’t think about it at all. Shane [Besedick] works for the Lakers, he actually saved my life. He’s a trainer and we talked about it a little bit, but I don’t have any problems, I don’t think about it. The only reminder I have is a scar on my chest but that doesn’t bother me no more. I’m ready to play basketball.”
When previewing O’Neal’s draft profile, the inability to see his full body of work throughout his college career was a drawback for scouts. The health obstacles O’Neal went through set back his college performance, although he was able to show spurts of what he can be last season at LSU averaging 2.9 points and 2.1 rebounds.
With this being one of the main concerns of taking a chance on O’Neal, he was able to foreshadow the potential we will see in his game down the line when asked about not being able to see his complete game in college.
“I feel like I haven’t gotten a chance to show what I used to do back in high school. I don’t really count high school basketball as really my full potential but I feel like I was never really at it because I was playing with an unhealthy heart my whole life. Just got it fixed a few years ago and I’m getting back to it. I feel real good, I work every day. One day, that full potential is going to come out. Still have to get faster, stronger. Still have to improve everything. People are going to see real soon though. I’m ready to play basketball. I’m working, trying to get to my goals and dreams, for sure. But I feel like people haven’t seen that full Shareef yet and I’m going to get to it for sure.”
Being able to see the full Shareef O’Neal is something Laker fans are excited to see during the Summer League. The mentally tough and hard-working qualities O’Neal possesses can help translate to him reaching the potential the Lakers see in him.
Darren Collison & Derick Williams Headline Free Agent Mini-Camp
With salary cap implications and limited trade assets, the Lakers are looking for every way possible to add the right pieces to the new-look roster heading into the 2022-23 NBA season.
On June 21, the Lakers held a free agent mini-camp that included eight attendees. Headlining the group were former Lakers, Darren Collison and Derrick Williams.
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