TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Me’Arah O’Neal, the youngest child of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, will play basketball for the University of Florida in the fall.
O’Neal signed her letter of intent to join the Florida Gators, UF Athletics announced on Sunday.
“We are thrilled that Me’Arah is a Gator. We can’t wait to welcome her and her family to Gainesville,” head coach Kelly Rae Finley said in a statement. “On the court she is a dynamic player who brings a unique skill set along with versatility to the floor. Her humble nature and team-first mentality make her the total package.”
The 6-foot-4-inch, 17-year-old lives in Houston, Texas, where she plays guard and forward at Episcopal High School. She is ranked the third-best prospect of the 2024 recruiting class in Texas, according to Prospects Nation, and is ranked 33rd in the country on the the ESPNW Top 100.
O’Neal passed over Louisiana State University in favor of UF. LSU’s women’s basketball team is not only the reigning national champion – it’s also her father’s alma mater. Shaquille O’Neal rocketed to stardom during his time at LSU, setting the stage for him to be drafted No. 1 overall by the Orlando Magic in 1992.
“I went on the Florida visit, and I had a feeling that’s where I belonged and that I was going to be most successful if I went to go play at Florida,” Me’Arah O’Neal told ESPN. “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 heads to Gainesville in the fall alongside two other women’s basketball signees: Alivia “Liv” McGill and Kylee Kitts. McGill is the highest-ranked recruit in the history of the team, according to the school.