Sources close to the situation have confirmed former Harker Heights basketball standout Royce O’Neale has chosen Baylor as his next landing spot.
O’Neale, a 6-foot-5 sophomore guard/forward, selected Baylor over TCU and Texas after he was released from his scholarship by the University of Denver due to the declining health of his grandfather, 76-year-old Willie Kingwood.
O’Neale and Baylor will now apply for a medical hardship waiver with the NCAA in order to play immediately. Otherwise, O’Neale will be required to sit out the 2013-14 season because he is transferring between Division I programs.
After starting his first two years at Denver, O’Neale has yet to use his redshirt season and should still have two more years of eligibility remaining even if he has to sit a year. The NCAA has approved half of all hardship waiver requests.
O’Neale was granted a medical hardship release May 3 after first contacting Denver coach Joe Scott with news of his family’s ongoing medical issues back in Killeen last month.
“It was a hard decision and a hard situation to go through, (I’m) trying to be strong but I’ll just be glad when it’s over with, and I can make a decision soon,” O’Neale said Wednesday by phone from Denver.
O’Neale’s grandfather has been dealing with heart troubles as a result of his diabetes, while his sister underwent a surgical procedure over a month ago. Both are recovering nicely now though, according to O’Neale’s mother Deborah Kingwood.
“Royce, he’s real close with my dad, and my parents have been really supportive of him, and he just made the decision that he wanted to be closer to home, be closer to family,” his mother said.
O’Neale averaged 11.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game last season at Denver, leading the Pioneers in both rebounding and assists.
Baylor seemed like an obvious choice given its proximity to Killeen and O’Neale’s long-standing relationship with former Killeen standout and current Bears post Cory Jefferson, who recently announced he’ll return for his senior season.
This week, two scholarships became available at Baylor when guards Duece Bello and L.J. Rose opted to transfer.