UCLA's Shareef O'Neal Announces Return to Basketball After Heart Surgery

Megan ArmstrongCorrespondent IApril 18, 2019

UCLA's Shareef O'Neal tosses a basketball as he watches warmups before an NCAA college basketball game against Presbyterian, Monday, Nov. 19, 2018, in Los Angeles. O'Neal is the son of NBA Hall of Fame center Shaquille O'Neal. (AP Photo/Michael Owen Baker)
Michael Owen Baker/Associated Press

UCLA's Shareef O'Neal is back on the basketball court.

O'Neal used a medical redshirt for last season after UCLA doctors discovered a heart ailment during summer workouts. O'Neal, the son of Hall of Famer Shaquille, underwent successful heart surgery on Dec. 13 and missed his entire freshman season.

On Wednesday, the 19-year-old posted photos of his return:

Shareef O’Neal @SSJreef


O'Neal signed his letter of intent to the Bruins in August 2018 as the No. 41-ranked prospect by 247Sports.

Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times explained in September that O'Neal's heart had an "electrical problem" that surgery was supposed to correct fully.

At the time of his surgery, O'Neal appeared in a video for TMZ (h/t ESPN.com's Myron Medcalf) and assured that the heart condition is "absolutely not" career-ending. He is expected to be able to take the floor for UCLA next season.

UCLA (17-16) could have certainly used the 6'9", 215-point 4-star recruit on the court last season, as sixth-year head coach Steve Alford was fired on Dec. 31 after the team got off to a sluggish 7-6 start.

Now that O'Neal is on the mend, he is wearing the scar down the middle of his chest as a badge:

Shareef O’Neal @SSJreef

Heart surgery made me nothing but better !! Scars are just a way of saying you made it out the battle ! https://t.co/fOsOx12mu2

O'Neal has seven months to return to full health and breathe new air into UCLA alongside guard Tyger Campbell, who also missed his freshman season because of a torn ACL during an October practice.

The refurbished Bruins will be led into 2019-20 by new head coach Mick Cronin, who took the Cincinnati Bearcats to the NCAA tournament in every season since 2010-11.