Shareef O’Neal, the son of Shaquille O’Neal and a top college prospect, has withdrawn his commitment to Arizona in the wake of a report that FBI wiretaps allegedly captured Coach Sean Miller discussing a $100,000 payment to get Deandre Ayton to sign with the team.
“At this time I am opening up my recruitment due to the current events with the UofA Bball team,” he tweeted. “I would like to thank all the coaches for recruiting me. At the time my family and I think it’s in my best interest to look at other options to assure my play in the NCAA next year.”
His decision comes after ESPN reported that wiretaps of Sean Miller and Christian Dawkins, a former employee of ASM Sports agent Andy Miller, allegedly show the two discussing the payout for Ayton, a potential No. 1 draft pick.
O’Neal, a senior 6-foot-9 power forward at Crossroads School in Santa Monica, Calif., will not require a release by Arizona because he signed nonbinding financial aid papers last April rather than a letter of intent.
It is unclear where O’Neal will play, although Kentucky and LSU, where his father played, were reportedly under consideration before he committed to Arizona.
The announcement by O’Neal came on the same day that Sean Miller decided not to coach the Wildcats against Oregon. Ayton started, but Arizona lost, 98-93, in overtime, despite Ayton’s 28 points and 18 rebounds. It is not clear when Sean Miller will return to the sideline.
“I believe it is in the best interest of our team that I not coach the game tonight,” Miller said in a statement released by the school. “I continue to fully support the university’s efforts to fully investigate this matter and am confident that I will be vindicated. For now, my thoughts are with our team. They are a great group of young men that will support each other and continue their pursuit of winning a Pac-12 championship.”
A lawyer representing the Ayton family denied that the freshman “discussed or solicited” payments from anyone.
“[Ayton] directly stated to the FBI, more than six months ago, that he never discussed or solicited payments from the University of Arizona, or any other university, or any shoe company or anyone on behalf of either — Period. This includes basketball and anything else,” the lawyer’s statement said.
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