What's The Buzz? Catching Up With Zaire O'Neil

Feb. 20, 2014

Incoming Georgia Tech women’s basketball signee Zaire O’Neil knows what it takes to be number one. The 6’1″ forward plays for the #1 high school team in New Jersey, Malcolm X Shabazz. Her team, which is 19-1 so far this season, is ranked 8th in the USA Today high school poll. O’Neil signed a National Letter of Intent in November and is looking to bring her championship mentality to Georgia Tech when she joins the team, beginning in the 2014-15 season.

“I am excited to be at Georgia Tech for a number of reasons,” O’Neil said. “I am really looking forward to playing for Coach Jo, being at one of the top engineering programs in the country, and bringing a championship mindset and culture to McCamish Arena where they love their women’s basketball. Lastly, I am excited to help bring a championship to Georgia Tech.”

O’Neil is on track to graduate from Malcolm X Shabazz as the school’s all-time leading scorer in school history and all-time leading rebounder. O’Neil has more than 1,600 career points and more than 800 career rebounds. She is averaging 16.8 ppg and 8.7 rpg her senior season. O’Neil set a career-high in points this season with 29, while grabbing 10 rebounds, recording four blocks and two steals. She was named the MVP of the Mecca Tournament and was honored on the All-Tournament team of the West Coast Jamboree and the Essex County tournament.

“Zaire is a game changer,” head coach MaChelle Joseph said. “Her versatility is what separates her. She had an All-American type summer. She dominated every game she played in against the best players in the country. Zaire will be an impact player at Georgia Tech and in the ACC.”

O’Neil is a McDonalds All-American nominee, a WBCA All-American nominee, an ESBC All-American nominee and selection as well as a NWAGS Selection. O’Neil boosts a successful resume off the court, as well. O’Neil is a member of the National Honor Society and the National Honor Society for Science. She is the senior class president, a Malcolm X Shabazz Ambassador for NPS, a member of the Future Leaders project and had the highest HSPA score for her high school.

“I chose Georgia Tech for it’s academics, athletics, area and atmosphere,” O’Neil said. “I call it the four A’s. When people find out that I am going to Georgia Tech next season they tell me how great the school is academically and what a wonderful opportunity it is. I am very pleased with my decision and I make that known.”

O’Neil and fellow signees, Imani Tilford and Erin Garner, make up Prospect Nation’s 11th-rated class. The trio was also tabbed by the All Star Girls Report as the No. 18-ranked recruiting class and ranked the No. 30 class in the nation by Blue Star Basketball. The three will join the Jackets for the 2014-15 season.

“I love the family type atmosphere at Georgia Tech,” O’Neil said. “It is like any family you have to have somebody in your corner when you are about to go to battle and I feel that with Coach Jo, Willis, Wholey, and Foster. The coaching staff is motivated, powerful and down to earth.”

Prospect: Zaire O’Neil
Nickname: “Z”
Home town: Newark, N.J.
High School: Malcolm X Shabazz
High School Team record: 19-1
Height: 6’1
Favorite Restaurant: Joes Crab Shack
Favorite Movie: Monsters Inc
Favorite Basketball Players: Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett, Candace Parker and Skylar Diggins
Favorite Food: Pasta & Chicken
Major you plan to pursue: Biomechanical Engineering
What are your goals for your senior season? Our goal this season to is win the Essex County Tournament, the New Jersey Group 1 State Tournament as well as the New Jersey Tournament of Champions Championship.
Have you been keeping up with the Yellow Jackets? I have been following the ACC and watching as many Georgia Tech games as possible either in person or on ESPN3. It has been fun to attend the games they played in New York. I am looking forward to stepping on the floor for Georgia Tech next season. I feel we can compete with anybody in our conference with the players we have and I am looking forward to doing big things!
Fast forward four years at Georgia Tech what would you have wanted to accomplish? I hope looking back after my four years at GT I will have an Engineering degree, an NCAA championship, an ACC championship, great relationships and friendships with my teammates and coaches and a number of great contacts to help me pursue a promising career.
What are your dreams after Georgia Tech? My dreams after Georgia Tech are to be drafted in the WNBA and eventually become a Scientist for ESPN’s Sports Science.
Anything else? I am afraid of the dark, I share the same birthday as my late Dad December 13, and I am a sneaker head!

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