basketball Edit

Tark Classic Friday: Shaq's son, Shareef O'Neal, in battle of bigs

LAS VEGAS – On Friday, bracket play began at the Tarkanian Classic and all eyes were on the battle between unsigned five-star senior big man Brandon McCoy and Shaquille O'Neal's son, Shareef O'Neal, a top 30 prospect in the class of 2018.

MORE: O'Neal video interview | Krysten Peek's Thursday report



No matter what top 30 junior power forward Shareef O'Neal does, he's always going to playing in the considerable shadow of his father, NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal. On Friday, the 6-foot-8 junior at Santa Monica (Calif.) Crossroads took another step toward creating his own legacy when he outdueled unsigned five-star senior big man Brandon McCoy of San Diego (Calif.) Cathedral Catholic.

The most anticipated matchup of the day wasn't a pretty one as both Crossroads and Cathedral Classic struggled to put points on the board in a bit of a slugfest. O'Neal and McCoy both scored 15 points but O'Neal's team scored the win and he did the best job of staying on the floor, which gave him the decision on the judges' cards.

After missing some easy looks early, O'Neal really settled in and showed some grit and toughness. He posted up well, he showed touch to the three-point line, played solid defense and made alert passes out of the low and high post. He's starting to fill out his lean frame and maybe most impressively he showed an off left-handed jump hook that could be a real weapon.

O'Neal visited Arizona in the fall and mentioned that the Wildcats, UCLA and USC are coming at him the hardest. He also said that Kansas is close to offering and that the Jayhawks have been out to see him twice. For now, he said he has no favorites or dream schools.

On the other side, McCoy has to carry a big load for his team and teammates struggled finding him under the bucket. He also battled foul trouble most of the game that limited his time on the court. He's visited Arizona, UNLV, Oregon and Michigan State officially and also has San Diego State on his list. Of those five, all but Arizona had assistants on hand to see him play and McCoy said that he still has no set timetable for a decision.

RIVALS150: 2017 | 2018 | 2019


LaMelo Ball
LaMelo Ball

Top five brother Lonzo Ball is gone and has turned UCLA into a top three team in the country, but brothers LiAngelo Ball and LaMelo Ball – who are both committed to UCLA – are still plugging away at Chino Hills (Calif.) High. On Friday, they combined for 66 points to help Chino Hills overcome a double-digit second half deficit and move the program's winning streak to 43 games with a win over Las Vegas (Nev.) Clark.

Though the duo racked up big numbers, it didn't come easy. A three-star senior wing, LiAngelo led the way with 40 points but he needed 47 shots to do it. His game is posting up and taking the ball strong to the hoop and then taking the three-point jumper when teams back off to play him for the drive.

A sophomore, LaMelo is a highly intriguing prospect. He scored 26 of his own (10-for-31 FGs) and dished out eight assists to just two turnovers, and he's in the process of turning into a high level player. Currently a four-star prospect who sits outside of the 2019 rankings, he's making a push for at least the national top 50, if not the top 25.

The youngest Ball, like his oldest brother Lonzo, is a creative passer who has a presence about him. He can shoot from deep but his shooting percentages suffer a bit from Chino Hills' let-it-fly style.

The Ball brothers have become must-see hoops on the high school level and though it isn't always pretty and basketball purists struggle to deal with their flamboyant style, they always make it exciting.

It's going to be interesting to see just how good they can be on the college level.

CLASS OF 2017 TEAM RANKING: Kentucky on top


Isaac Johnson
Isaac Johnson

Also just outside of the 2019 rankings as a four-star prospect is American Fork (Utah) High big man Isaac Johnson. The 6-foot-9 power forward won't be unranked the next time around, though, and he looks to be at least a top 50 level prospect.

Forget the 6-foot-9 size, good athleticism and above average mobility for a young big man, it is the skill Johnson plays with that jumps out. He can stroke deep jump shots, he's got an innate feel for passing the ball and he's an instinctual rebounder with above average hands and feet.

He will get stronger, he will learn to attack around the goal and continue to develop into a legit high-major big man. Utah has offered and head coach Larry Krystkowiak was sure to watch Johnson closely.

According to Johnson, BYU, Utah State and Southern Utah have also offered. Oregon, UCLA, California and Gonzaga have been out to see him recently while Arizona and Duke have both shown recent interest.


Branden Carlson
Branden Carlson

Speaking of Larry Krystkowiak, the Utah head coach had to enjoy watching four-star commitment Branden Carlson and thinking about what he'll be able to do with him. The South Jordan (Utah) Bingham big man's team played an ugly game and he didn't put up huge numbers, but the skill, size and athleticism he showed were all high level. Carlson will take a mission before playing in college but he has big-time potential and is currently under-ranked at No. 113 in the 2017 Rivals150.

Sticking in the state of Utah, 2018 combo guard Hunter Ericson doesn't yet have a Division I offer. That should change soon for the three-star prospect at Timpview (Utah) High. He created space off the dribble, showed explosion on a really nice baseline drive for a dunk over a much bigger defender and was confident with his jump shot and playmaking for others. Santa Clara, Utah State and BYU have expressed early interest and the offers should start coming in soon.

We're eager to see how far 6-foot-8 sophomore Raymond Hawkins of Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd can take his game. He's physical, tries to dunk everything he can and has an engaging personality on and off the floor. Currently a three-star prospect, he looks to have legitimate Pac-12 potential. Hawkins listed offers from Pacific, Nevada, Montana and Wyoming to go with interest from California, Arizona, Gonzaga, St. Mary's, Boise State and Holy Cross.

Another product out of the Oakland area, Salesian High junior point guard James Akinjo is going to get high-major looks as well. The three-star prospect doesn't have out-of-this world size (5-11, 160), but he has a terrific floor presence and takes good care of the ball. He listed offers from Texas A&M, Colorado, Montana, San Jose State and San Francisco.

Unsigned four-star senior Charles O'Bannon had some interested onlookers on Friday night. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard from host Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman drew USC head coach Andy Enfield plus three assistants and a pair of assistants from UCLA. He's visited the Trojans, Bruins and N.C. State officially.

It shouldn't come as a surprise that a significant gathering of West Coast talent drew a ton of coaches. On Friday we spotted head coaches from UCLA, USC, California and Utah to go along with assistant coaches from San Diego State, Pepperdine, Michigan State, Hawaii, TCU, Colorado, Oregon, New Mexico, Loyola Marymount, Grand Canyon, Cornell, Denver, Gonzaga, Southern Utah and UNLV.