He's one of the most dominant basketball players of all time and known by just four letters: Shaq.
Shaquille O'Neal played at LSU for three seasons, harassing opposing big men and guards silly enough to try to squeeze a shot past him as he propelled up the all-time charts for his rebounding and shot-blocking ability, not to mention his efficient low-post scoring.
Here's are the essential stats from Shaquille O'Neal's college career.
The vitals, college stats for Shaquille O'Neal
Weight: 295 pounds
Years active: 1989-92
NCAA tournament record: 2-3
Career averages: 21.6 points per game, 13.5 rebounds per game, 4.6 blocks per game, 61.0% shooting
What was Shaquille O'Neal's record in college?
LSU went 64-29 in three years with Shaquille O'Neal and made the NCAA tournament in every season. The Tigers earned a No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 seed, respectively, from 1990 through 1992, peaking at No. 2 in the AP poll in O'Neal's freshman year.
What kind of prospect was Shaquille O'Neal in high school?
As a senior at Robert G. Cole High School in San Antonio, O'Neal averaged 31 points, 22 rebounds and six assists, while leading Cole to a 36-0 season. His blocks-per-game average was around nine late in the season. The dominating big man once had 26 points, 36 rebounds and 26 blocks in a game in high school, which may have created a never-replicated 25-25-25 stat line.
He was named a Parade All-American and a member of The (Louisville) Courier-Journal's Super Five, along with Kenny Anderson, Jim Jackson, Allan Houston and Doug Edwards. O'Neal put up 18 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks in the McDonald's All-American game — all of which were the most in the game.
Cliff Newell of The Kerrville Times noted how in a game against the Ingram Tom Moore Warriors, O'Neal was forced to bring the ball up the court due to the opposition's defense. Imagine trying to play defense against a 6-11 center-turned-point guard Shaquille O'Neal as a 17-year-old!
At age 10, O'Neal's family had moved to West Germany because his father was in the Army and the family lived there for six years. There's a chance the already-great O'Neal could have been an even better high school player had he played in a more competitive basketball environment in the U.S. At 13, when O'Neal was already 6-7, he actually met LSU coach Dale Brown, who he'd later play for, on an Army base in Germany.
"It was at a basketball clinic," O'Neal described to The Town Talk, during his freshman year at LSU, "and I went up to him afterward and asked him how I could improve my jumping ability. He talked to me and gave me some papers.
"Then he asked me, 'How long have you been in the Army?'
"I told him I was 13 years old, and he said, 'I'd like to talk to your father.'"
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What was Shaquille O'Neal's game like?
A story published in the Austin American-Statesman in March 1989, when O'Neal's Cole High School team clinched a spot in the 3A state finals, noted that O'Neal was upset after a 38-point, 20-rebound performance in the win.
He got into foul trouble against a shorter defender and that made him more hesitant, but that didn't stop him from coming a basket shy of a 40-20 stat line. The recap noted that all 33 of O'Neals field-goal attempts came within six feet of the basket. O'Neal knew who he was as a player and that was a dominant low-post force.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted that O'Neal's best shot as a freshman was dunking the ball. After spending the offseason working with Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — ever heard of them? — he added a turnaround jumper and a jump hook to his game after practicing his low-post footwork.
As part of LSU's "Twin Towers" in the frontcourt, O'Neal made up 50 percent of a formidable front line, for which there was high expectations. The following comes from an edition of The Times in Shreveport, Louisiana during the 1990 season.
Opponents quickly grew weary of trying to face O'Neal and Roberts in the paint. "6-foot-9 center Keith Robinson powered his way inside for a shot," Kent Heitholt of The Times in Shreveport, Louisiana wrote after an LSU-Notre Dame game. "The ball never went up as LSU freshman Shaquille O'Neal used both hands to stuff the shot into Robinson's chest. After that, Notre Dame players who ventured into the middle quickly made U-turns as if they'd had just encountered a glaring red Do Not Enter sign."
O'Neal's game was so admired by his peers that in a survey conducted by The Tennessean during the 1990-91 season, 12 of the 13 SEC seniors involved said they'd want to play with O'Neal in a hypothetical 3-on-3 tournament involving players from the conference — the No. 1 choice by six votes.
What were some of Shaquille O'Neal's best games?
When you're an all-world player who averaged almost 28 points, 15 rebounds and five blocks per game as a sophomore, even your average game is guaranteed to be impressive. That season, O'Neal once had 32 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks against Ole Miss, which was, well, just above his season averages. That's how good O'Neal was.
As of March, 3, 1991, he was one of two players in the country to score 40 points in a game without even attempting a 3-pointer.
O'Neal posted a double-double in all five NCAA tournament games he played, most notably a 36-point, 12-rebound, five-block performance against Indiana in the final college game of his career. He had 27 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks against UConn in the 1991 NCAA Tournament. In 1992, he posted a triple-double in the first round of the NCAA tournament with 26 points, 13 rebounds and 11 blocks against BYU.
You can almost become desensitized to incredible performances when you read through O'Neal's box scores. It shouldn't take 40 points or 20 rebounds or 10 blocks to take note of one of O'Neal's great games, but put up 25 and 12 consistently enough, and that's what happens.
O'Neal's career-high in points came against Arkansas State in December 1990, when he dropped 53 points to go along with 18 rebounds. The next December he had 43 points and 18 rebounds against Northern Arizona.
In February of his freshman season, O'Neal set an LSU record with 12 blocks against Loyola Marymount.
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What awards did Shaquille O'Neal win in college?
Here are some of the awards Shaquille O'Neal won in college:
- 1990 consensus First Team All-SEC
- 1991 SEC Player of the Year
- 1991 consensus First Team All-American
- 1991 National Player of the Year
- 1992 SEC Player of the Year
- 1992 consensus First Team All-American
What records did Shaquille O'Neal set in college and where does he rank among historical greats?
Here are some of the records Shaquille O'Neal set in college and where he ranks on all-time lists:
- Shares the NCAA record with back-to-back triple-doubles
- Led the country in rebounding average in 1991 (14.7 rebounds per game)
- Led the country in blocked shots average in 1992 (5.23 blocks per game)
- Set the SEC record for most blocked shots in conference play (1990)
- The most points scored in a game inside LSU's Maravich Center (53 points)
- The most double-doubles in LSU history (66 double-doubles)
- The most triple-doubles in LSU history (six triple-doubles)
- The most blocked shots in a game in LSU history (12 blocks)
- The most blocked shots in a season in LSU history (157 blocks)
- The most blocked shots in a career in LSU history (412 blocks)
- The most blocked shots in a game in NCAA tournament history (11 blocks)
- Second in LSU history in career rebounds (1,217 rebounds)
- Second in LSU history with 62 consecutive games of double-figure scoring
- Tied for second in NCAA history in career triple-doubles (six triple-doubles)
- Fourth all-time in LSU history in career scoring average (21.6 points per game)
- Fifth all-time on LSU's career scoring list (1,941 points)
- Tied for fifth in NCAA history for career rebounding average (13.5 rebounds per game)
- Seventh in NCAA history in career blocked shots average (4.58 blocks per game)
- Seventh in the country in scoring average in 1991 (27.6 points per game)
- Tied for seventh in NCAA history for most triple-doubles in a season (three triple-doubles)
- Tied for the seventh-fastest LSU player to 1,000 points (52 games)
- 14th, tied for 20th in NCAA history for the highest block average in a season (5.23, 5.00 blocks per game)
- Tied for 19th in NCAA history for most blocks in a season (157 blocks)
- 20th in NCAA history in career blocks (412 blocks)
What did people say about Shaquille O'Neal?
Former Marquette coach Kevin O'Neill on O'Neal as a high school senior: "Athletically, he's as good or better than anybody. He's the premier big man coming out right now. They've got a boatfull down at LSU now. Their training table's going to cost them a bunch."
Basketball scout Bob Gibbons on O'Neal as a high school senior: "He will be the player of his class, the No. 1 draft choice of his class. No doubt about it."
Basketball scout Joe Butler on O'Neal as a high school senior: "He's too good for high school ... This kid can jump and can put the ball on the floor."
Basketball scout Howard Garfinkle on O'Neal after the McDonald's All-American Game: "I had not seen O'Neal play before today. He was awesome. His potential is frightening. He runs the court well, rebounds well, and has good moves offensively. He's a little raw defensively but that should come, too. It's all there. What he's got you can't teach. LSU just went to No. 1 on my preseason list for next season."
Cliff Newell of The Kerrville Times: "It's hard to beat a guy who seems to come out of the sky at you."
Glenn Guilbeau of The Town Talk: "Blocking shots is freshman Shaquille O'Neal's game. He has already assumed the defensive role on this talent-crazed basketball team that is ranked No. 1 by nearly every publication in the nation, except for medical journals."
O'Neal's stepfather, Phillip Harrison, laughing, on playing his son 1-on-1: "We could go today, and I would take him."
Former Georgia Tech coach Bobby Cremins after facing LSU in the 1990 NCAA Tournament: "When I saw Stanley (Roberts) and Shaquille (O'Neal) doing some of the things they were doing, I didn't know what was going to happen to us. It was scary."
Former Golden State Warriors coach Don Nelson in the spring of O'Neal's freshman season: "This kid knows how to play ... He passes the ball extremely well and there's a purpose to his game. He's really something."
Former Ole Miss coach Ed Murphy: "There's nobody in the country with that size and ability. Olajuwon and Ewing weren't that good when they were playing in college."
Wendell Barnhouse of Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "O'Neal's size, talent, attitude and past combine to make his saga incomparable. First, there's the size. This man-child is a man mountain. And he's as mobile as a cellular phone."
Bill Walton: "Basically, he's a stud. The important thing to remember is he's only 18."
Shaquille O'Neal quotes
O'Neal on his goals for college: "I want to get my degree, first of all, and maybe a couple of NCAA championships."
O'Neal on defense: "I get more satisfaction out of defense. I like to block shots."
O'Neal, prior to the LSU-UConn matchup in the 1990 NCAA Tournament: "I'm not supposed to talk about opponents. But if I were Jim Calhoun, I'd put four guys on Shaquille O'Neal."
O'Neal, after talking to his stepfather prior to facing UConn: "I talked to my father. He told me to stay on the ground, put your hands up and don't jump. Hopefully I can do that. It is very difficult. Because I'm a 7-foot shot-blocker and I don't like 6-footers coming in my lane and trying to score. I have to maintain composure and stay on the ground. Most of the time, I'm so hyper for a big game that I'm up in the air like a big bird."