When Shareef O’Neal decommitted from the University of Arizona, few could be shocked. After committing to Arizona in April 2017 and then signing his letter of intent in November, O’Neal watched the Wildcats be dragged into the FBI’s widespread investigation into bribery, with Arizona Sean Miller allegedly caught on a wiretap discussing payment arrangements for current freshman phenom DeAndre Ayton.
All of that background noise inspired Shaquille O’Neal’s son to back out of his commitment on Sunday, citing, “the current events with the UofA Bball team.” His decision effectively re-opens his collegiate choice, provided Arizona grants him his release or, failing that, the NCAA forces the Wildcats to do so.
Cue the fans and fellow commits, with the Kentucky entourage quick to get it on the act:
That’s Immanuel Quickley and Tyler Herro, both five-star Kentucky signees — and two of the three members of Kentucky’s current Class of 2018 — exhorting O’Neal to join “Big Blue Nation” (that’s the #BBN reference). What the two lack in flowery praise they make up for with directness.
They’re not alone, either. Just remember: When Shaquille O’Neal was asked who he hoped would coach his son in college, he went out of his way to praise John Calipari and Kentucky as a potential fit.
The issue for Kentucky is all about scholarship availability. As they do every year, the Wildcats have to wait to see which of their prized talents leave early for the NBA Draft. Until then, the number of scholarships they have available could limit their ability to fully chase after the younger O’Neal.
Not that O’Neal needs a scholarship, of course. His father could easily pay Shareef’s way to ensure he has a position as a preferred walk-on.
In the meantime, O’Neal will continue to explore his opportunities away from the desert, the latest blow in a sudden decline that remains hard to fathom.