Former UCLA star Shareef O'Neal on Friday accepted a scholarship offer to play basketball at LSU, bringing the former two-time All-American closer to fulfilling a childhood dream of playing in the NBA.
But first, the nephew of Shaquille O'Neal has to show he can step into a starting role for a team that has national championship aspirations.
O'Neal, a 6-foot-10, 220-pound forward, has been working on the improvement of his game under longtime NBA consultant Bernie Mulligan, who has been helping him with his transition from college to the professional ranks.
Sidelined last season with an injury, O'Neal averaged 16.9 points and 8.1 rebounds and earned Big West Freshman of the Year honors this season for Cal State Fullerton. In his career, he has earned All-Big West honors four times and is a career 55.5% shooter from the field.
He will compete for LSU alongside younger brother and Lakers prospect Kaleb Wesson, a 6-9 forward. Another young big man in LSU has been NBA prospects Wendell Carter and Mohamed Bamba.
O'Neal's father, Shaquille, wasn't always on the path he wanted. He quit playing after the season to focus on the basketball career of the oldest of his three sons, Shareef.
At 17, Shaquille O'Neal was the No. 1 overall pick by Orlando in the 1992 NBA draft. In the next four seasons with the Magic, he was named MVP in the 1994 All-Star Game and won the NBA Finals MVP Trophy in 1995.
O'Neal retired in 2005 with a reputation as a rogue on and off the court, and he was married to reality TV star Shaunie O'Neal, who also made her name by appearing on "The Real Housewives of Orange County."
In recent years, Shareef O'Neal has faced some adversity as a sophomore at UCLA, with his family getting attention because of his father's relationship with adult film star Stormy Daniels.
Shaquille O'Neal went public about his plans to retire, but the elder O'Neal had other ideas. Eventually, the two broke up in late 2016 after more than 18 years of marriage, and last year, Shareef O'Neal was removed from the UCLA basketball team when his mother, Shaunie, called for a family meeting to discuss her concerns over the deteriorating relationship with her estranged son.
That last move left Shareef O'Neal contemplating his future. Shaquille O'Neal later apologized to the young man.
O'Neal remained in school this season and helped lead Fullerton to a 24-7 overall record. After the season, Mulligan traveled to Fullerton to work with O'Neal, taking him into different rooms to practice various aspects of his game.
He averaged 21.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and shot 55.3% from the field.
O'Neal likely will redshirt his first season at LSU and may earn playing time next season.
It's a good sign for the young O'Neal that Coach Will Wade has shown an interest in him. Wade was an assistant coach at UCLA when Shaquille O'Neal was a Bruin. Wade moved on to Miami, where he has turned the Heat around after just one season.
O'Neal already has played for Wade at Miami. He began playing summer ball this season for the 21- and 19-year-old-old Adidas Euro Jam affiliate team.
O'Neal was born at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and his uncle, Shaquille, was the team's mascot in the mid-1990s.