In addition to its star freshman’s eligibility and its coach’s job both being in jeopardy, Arizona’s entanglement in the FBI scandal has now cost it a heralded recruit.
Shareef O’Neal, the son of former NBA all-star Shaquille O’Neal, has backed out of his commitment to the Wildcats and reopened his recruitment.
I wanted to send a personal thank you to coach miller , coach romar , coach phelps , and all the Arizona staff and fans for all the support they’ve shown my family and I.
— Shareef O’Neal (@SSJreef) February 24, 2018
O’Neal’s decision comes 18 hours after ESPN.com reported FBI wiretaps had intercepted Arizona coach Sean Miller discussing making a $100,000 payment to land heralded big man DeAndre Ayton. Miller has informed Arizona players that he will not coach Saturday night at Oregon, but Ayton is expected to play.
Only minutes after the ESPN.com report surfaced on Friday night, O’Neal sent out a tweet that read “Lol don’t want to be involved with that” and attached four zipped-lip emojis and a peace sign. Brandon Williams, Arizona’s only other class of 2018 commit, retweeted O’Neal’s since-deleted tweet, ramping up speculation that he too may soon reopen his recruitment.
The loss of O’Neal is a blow to Arizona’s already uncertain future. The 6-foot-9 power forward is Rivals.com’s No. 28 prospect in the 2018 class. He is best known for his ability to run the floor, alter shots in the paint and finish above the rim.
O’Neal originally committed to Arizona almost two years ago, but he left himself some wiggle room after the FBI investigation first ensnared the Wildcats in September. Both O’Neal and Williams signed nonbinding scholarship papers with Arizona in November because of the uncertainty in the program.
It’s not clear which schools O’Neal will consider now that his recruitment is back on again. Among the schools Arizona beat out the first time were Kentucky and Shaq’s alma mater, LSU.
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