UCLA sophomore forward Shareef O’Neal “could’ve died” if doctors had not discovered a heart condition, his mother, Shaunie O’Neal, said in the season premiere of her VH1 show, ‘Basketball Wives,’ on Wednesday night.
According to Shaunie, Shareef, whose father is Shaquille O’Neal, was forced to sit out last season after getting diagnosed with a right anomalous coronary artery, a congenital condition that can cause heart failure and sudden cardiac death when undiagnosed.
“An artery that just grows in the wrong place,” Shaunie said on the show. “He was born with it. He could have died from it. They let us know Shareef needed open-heart surgery. That made my heart break.”
Shareef underwent open heart surgery in October and was cleared to return in March. UCLA did not disclose the details about Shareef last season.
“When you go from just not doing anything to try to playing basketball, stop-and-go contact, full workouts, it’s almost like zero-to-60,” new UCLA head coach Cronin told ESPN. “He’s obviously got monitors all over him. Obviously, if he wasn’t cleared, he wouldn’t be out here. It’s just a matter of getting his wind back up and his strength. He lost 25 pounds. That’ll come.
“He’s just working through it all. But he’s been great. Really impressed with his skill level.”