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Shaq’s son Shareef O’Neal to sit out UCLA season due to major heart surgery

Apple Music Launch Party Carpool Karaoke: The Series With James Corden

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - AUGUST 07: Former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal (L) and son Shareef O’Neal at Apple Music Launch Party Carpool Karaoke: The Series with James Corden on August 7, 2017 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for Apple)

Emma McIntyre

Shareef O’Neal is Shaquille O’Neal’s son, but he’s earned a strong basketball reputation outside of just his last name. He one of the stars of the UCLA recruiting class (after decommitting from Arizona in the wake of the FBI investigation), an athletic power forward who, if his rather raw game comes together (according to scouts), could have a role as a modern NBA big man who fits with the way the game is evolving.

However, it’s going to be a season before Bruins fans or anyone gets to see him — O’Neal will have to have heart surgery to fix a potentially life-threatening defect, the young player told TMZ.

Shareef didn’t specify the exact problem -- but said the issue is severe enough that he’ll be having heart surgery in the near future.

“Thank God the UCLA medical staff caught it early,” O’Neal tells us.

Shareef says he’s been talking with his dad and mom Shaunie O’Neal about how best to handle the situation -- and will NOT withdraw from school while recovering.

While no heart surgery qualifies as minor, it’s better to be preventative than reactionary with heart issues. O’Neal is right, he is fortunate the doctors caught it when he did.

Basketball will take a back seat for a season, O’Neal will be a UCLA student, rehab, and be back with the Bruins for the 2019-20 season. Maybe that “gap year” will help provide time for his body to mature a little and it will make him a better player. More importantly, he will be a healthier player and someone who can live a longer life, basketball or not.