Being the son of Shaquille O’Neal isn’t easy and Shaqir O’Neal knows his father’s size 22s are big shoes to fill.
The O’Neal family bond is more important to Shaqir than meeting the challenge of living up to his surname, while playing in front of college basketball scouts and coaches at the NCAA College Basketball Academy West Region camp on Wednesday.
It’s without coincidence that Shaqir played against Dwyane Wade’s son Zaire Wade at the GCU Athletic Complex’s main court.
“I don’t really pay attention to all that,” O’Neal said. “I didn’t feel any pressure even though I know there’s college coaches and staff members that work here.”
The 16-year-old is the youngest of Shaquille O’Neal’s two sons. Older brother Shareef O’Neal is a 6-9 power forward entering his sophomore year at UCLA.
Because of his brother’s talent and height, and their father’s unstoppable 7-2, 320-pound frame during his Hall of Fame career, most fans would believe Shaqir would inherit his father’s basketball unicorn DNA.
However, Shaqir doesn’t have a towering Herculean body frame.
Shaqir is a three-star recruit from Crossroads High School in Santa Monica, Calif. He’s a 6-5, 170-pound guard with the wingspan of a heron and bony shoulders.
“He doesn’t want me to lift weights yet,” Shaqir said about his father’s suggestion to naturally develop his physique.
Besides their similar first names, the only resemblance that Shaqir has with his father on is their high cheekbones and sharpened nose bridge.
Shaqir possesses moderate speed and handles the ball with finesse in the open court. He prefers the perimeter to the post, assists rather than a score-first mentality, and is a smooth mid-range to 3-point shooting threat.
His ability took an ardent ethic rather than relying on genetics.
“I didn’t really take basketball seriously until a few years ago,” Shaqir said. “I didn’t play AAU until 14-U. I was really good when I was super young but I was never focused on it…”
Dan Majerle, Phoenix Suns legendary guard and current head coach of GCU, attests to the pressure or criticism that the progeny of NBA players face when coming up in the prep ranks.
“Opportunities like growing up around NBA guys, working out with them, playing against top college athletes and coaches, they get a lot of opportunities that a lot of other kids don’t have,” Majerle said. “But if it’s that you’re not going work hard just because you’re an NBA kid, then it’s not going to work out for you. You’ve gotta work really hard and progress…”
“When you hear things like, ‘oh, that’s Dwyane Wade’s kid‘ or ‘that’s Shaq’s kid,’ they expect them to be good. But it doesn’t work that way.”
Shaqir grew up in several cities while Shaquille played on six NBA teams.
Shaqir O’Neal spoke to me about his time living in Phoenix when his dad Shaquille played for the #Suns between 2007-2009. Plus, Shaqir talks about his performance against Zaire Wade (Dwyane Wade’s son) at Day 2 of the NCAA West Region College Basketball Academy @gcu. pic.twitter.com/NGkNFqP90s
— Dana Scott (@iam_DanaScott) July 25, 2019
He lived in Florida before he moved to the Phoenix area when Shaquille played for the Suns from 2007 to 2009.
“We had dirtbikes. It was really fun out here,” Shaqir said about living in Arizona. “I used to ride around the neighborhood and go to all his games. It was a fun time, super hot.”
When his brother redshirted at UCLA last season because of an heart condition, Shareef was his biggest cheerleader.
“We supported him all the time, I was out there during the season,” Shaqir said. “He just told me to go out there and make him proud by going as hard as I can, like getting buckets. He’s like my best friend.”
Shaqir O’Neal pushes the ball up the court and finishes with a running teardrop on his strong side. pic.twitter.com/AZ2JxgRL5m
— Dana Scott (@iam_DanaScott) July 25, 2019
When Shaq wasn’t on the NBA court, his absence was quickly noted. The same can’t be said for Shaqir — at least not yet.
Shaqir missed the final game for his team, 1982 UNC Tarheels, at the basketball academy on Thursday. He left early because of his family decided that he would not participate in Thursday’s activities at the camp. Only a few people noticed.
But this won’t be the last that we hear about Shaqir, who understands the pressure to succeed. He has two years left of high school and is still looking for his first scholarship offer.
“It’s a lot of pressure, but pressure with confidence,” he said