Shaquille O’Neal’s Youngest Daughter Commits To University Of Florida, Turns Down Offer From LSU
Shaquille O'Neal's youngest daughter has committed to the University of Florida, bypassing an offer from defending champion LSU team.
Me’Arah O’Neal, the youngest daughter of NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal, has committed to the University of Florida, where she will play college basketball for the Lady Gators. The six-foot-four guard is ranked No.33 overall in ESPNW’s top 100 athletes in the class of 2024 and is passing on offers from Arizona State, Baylor, California-Berkeley, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, and her father’s alma mater, LSU, ESPN reported.
The 17-year-old graduating senior paid a visit to the Gators program in September, where, upon meeting Coach Kelly Rae Finley, she found a program that felt like home.
“I went on the Florida visit, and I had a feeling that’s where I belonged,” O’Neal said. “And that I was going to be most successful if I went to go play at Florida. I felt like I connected with Coach Kelly more than I connected with any of the other schools that recruited me. She really cares about me not just on the court but off the court. That’s important for me.”
O’Neal, who is also the daughter of reality TV maven Shaunie Henderson, will play alongside No. 16 prospect, Alivia McGill, as well as guard/forward Kylee Kitts at the program, ESPN reported.
O’Neal accompanied her Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame father to the school where his legendary career began in Baton Rouge, LA, last spring; however, the family ties and a world champion team failed to sway the student-athlete. Still, the longtime Lakers player beamed with pride over the path O’Neal has blazed for herself. “One of the best moments of my life, where I took her to my alma mater and they knew who she was,” Shaquille O’Neal said. “But believe it or not, I tried to stay out of it. … What I did tell her is, ‘Go where you’re needed, not where you’re wanted. Because if you go where you’re wanted and they got other people like you, may take a while.’ I want [my kids] to have their own journey, have their own experience.”
O’Neal, whose brother Shareef made the decision to leave college and enter the NBA Draft in 2022, was committed to making her own decision about her athletic future, but welcomed the support of her family, PEOPLE reported. “I was pressuring myself to make a decision, but I learned I had to be patient. And I did make this decision on my own,” she said.