Box & One With Jermaine O’Neal

By Wesley Chism Jr.
Updated: December 4, 2007

SEATTLE — It’s hard to believe that the Indiana Pacers, Jermaine O’Neal, has been in the NBA for 11 years. Taken straight out of Eau Claire High School in South Carolina where he held such honors as being named Player of the Year, Mr. Basketball, USA Today All-USA Basketball Team and a member of McDonald’s All-American Team.

“It’s hard for me to believe it sometimes and how fast the years have gone by”, O’Neal said.I came into a great organization and was given every opportunity to learn as a player and mature as a person. It can be overwhelming with a million people watching but I’m very appreciative of the way the Pacer organization brought me along.”

At this time Jermaine is still adjusting to his off season surgically repaired knee. “I know that it looks bad at the moment with all the ice bags on and everything but this is the best that I’ve felt in a very long time”, added O’Neal.As a matter of fact, I can’t remember the last time I played without my knee hurting, before tonight and really wish that I would’ve done this sooner.”

This is the first major surgery that Jermaine has had but he states that, “It was very necessary. I’m not completely comfortable out on the court yet and missed a lot of easy shots tonight.”

“I may have forced things tonight because I was so excited about being back and wanted to contribute but is hard to do since I’ve only practiced three times in the last two weeks.”

While Jermaine was rehabbing he completely changed his diet and is doing better at eating balanced meals. “I do feel that to play at this level and be successful you’ve got to take care of your body and what you eat is so important.”

With first year Pacer head coach, Jim O’Brien, there is a new system in place that Jermaine is learning but feels that he’s got a good grasp of it. “I’m just staying mentally focused and playing to my strengths and abilities.”

Jermaine O’Neal has been selected to six consecutive NBA All-Star teams and the streak may be in jeopardy this year but that doesn’t bother him. “I’m not in this league trying to win any particular personal award, if that comes along because of my work ethic fine”, O’Neal said.

“My goal every game that I’m suited up in an Indiana Pacers jersey is to bring a NBA Championship back to this city.”