"I've been an emotional wreck, really," his mother, Shaunie O'Neal, told TMZ. "To be honest...I just really have. I still am. I'm just trying to push through."
"It's scary," she continued. "It's scary no matter what. There's nothing anybody can say, do, tell me—it's scary. And, I'm going to be feeling that way until this is over."
In September, UCLA's medical staff noticed a heart issue during a routine checkup with O'Neal.
"Thank God the UCLA medical staff caught it early," he told TMZ Sports at the time, adding that he would still be able to attend classes during his rehabilitation from surgery and that he intended to play for the Bruins next season after taking a redshirt year in 2018-19.
O'Neal was considered the No. 41 overall recruit in the Class of 2018 and was a 4-star prospect, per 247Sports.com. He was also ranked as the No. 4 player from the state of California and the No. 8 overall power forward in the 2018 class.
He was expected to play a major role for UCLA as a freshman, with head coach Steve Alford commenting on his addition in August (h/t Kyle Boone of CBS Sports):
"He's an outstanding addition to our incoming class and brings a terrific combination of size, skill and athleticism. We love the length and height of this year's team, and Shareef is really going to add to that dynamic. He has a terrific frame, one that will allow him to continue improving on both sides of the floor. With Shareef, you're talking about a hard-working young man with tremendous upside, and his presence in our team's frontcourt is a significant addition."
That addition will have to wait one year, though O'Neal expects to be back with the team next season and told TMZ Sports earlier in October his ambition remains to play in the NBA one day, following in the footsteps of his father.