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Sports Illustrated
Sports Illustrated
Wilton Jackson

Shaquille O’Neal’s Daughter Spurns LSU, Commits to SEC Rival Florida

Me’Arah O’Neal, the daughter and youngest child of NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, has committed to play for the Florida women’s basketball team in the 2024-25 season.

O’Neal, a four-star recruit from Episcopal High in Houston, chose Florida over her dad’s alma mater and the reigning NCAA national champion, LSU. She announced her commitment to the Gators’ program on an Instagram Live video Sunday, popping a balloon filled with blue, green and orange confetti while donning a blue Gators T-Shirt.

“I will be committing to the University of Florida,” O’Neal said.

Other schools that recruited the 6’3” post player include Arizona State, Baylor, UCLA, Georgia Tech, Kentucky and Tennessee, according to Caroline Makauskas of the Lexington Herald-Leader. O’Neal will be joining a Florida program led by head coach Kelly Rae Finley, who is in her third season with the Gators. 

Last season, Florida lost to Bowling Green in the NIT quarterfinals. However, during the 2021-22 campaign, Florida made an appearance in the women’s NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016, in Finley’s first season.

View the original article to see embedded media.

After announcing her decision, O’Neal told ESPN she felt as if she “belonged” at Florida after visiting the school and getting to know Finley.

“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.”

During the summer, O’Neal averaged 7.8 points and 1.7 assists in nearly 20 minutes of action for CyFair Elite in the Texas EYBL circuit, per Makauskas.

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