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“I will continue to shoot” |  Royce O’Neale remains confident and silences Dallas

Survival is not a strange word for Royce O’Neale.

In fact, throughout his basketball career, survivability is arguably a trait O’Neale feels most comfortable in. Since he was a rising star at Harker Heights High School in Kileen, TX, O’Neale has been questioned everywhere he is. been.

From being lightly recruited out of high school to transferring to a top Big-12 school before being passed over in the NBA draft, to O’Neale getting to this point in his career, he had to learn to adapt and survive.

“Being undrafted sticks with you,” O’Neale said. “I wasn’t going to let it end there. … It was about having a chance to prove myself at some point. I didn’t care where I had to go to play, I just wanted to play. I knew that I could play at the level.”

But thanks to those survival lessons, something changed about O’Neale.

A fearlessness replaced feelings of inadequacy. A fight he held deep within began to manifest on the outside – and in return, trust began to take shape. O’Neale went from someone happy to be in the NBA to a top player on a title-seeking team, mostly through his boldness on the court.

He was never shy about playing his part with the Jazz, embracing it so much he reveled in being the villain to opposing teams, constantly harassing and harassing them – and all with that signature smile that shines through. .

Simply put, because of that confidence O’Neale has in himself, Utah opened the 2022 NBA playoffs with a Game 1 win over Dallas on Saturday afternoon. When the Jazz needed him the most, O’Neale was more than ready to rise to the occasion, knocking down the game’s biggest shot to seal the win.

But before kicking off the decisive three-pointer, O’Neale had to overcome a month of struggle.

Before the calendar turned to March, O’Neale led Utah with 41%+ three-point percentage from beyond the arc. Even more impressive is that he came while averaging 5-6 shots from deep per game, a solid number of catches.

Yet, since that time, O’Neale had gone from a sniper three-pointer to someone who struggled massively. He got to a point where it looked like he had lost confidence in his shot, consistently passing open looks.

Those struggles continued for most of Saturday’s game – although it was sensational in many other ways. He was 0 for 4 (0 for 2 from deep) for 45 minutes of action, again letting a few open shots through.

Still, when it mattered most, O’Neale looked a lot like the sniper he was for most of the season. Leading by one, and after a Dallas three-pointer, O’Neale hit a step back three-point off the dribble to give Utah a four-point lead with less than a minute to play, extending a Jazz lead that they would never give up.

“It was a big achievement,” O’Neale said of his shot. “Every day I keep shooting the ball. Shooters go through crunch times and just don’t think about the past. … Keep thinking everyone I shoot after that comes in. Donovan [Mitchell] did a great piece, found me and just relied on me to do it.”

Going forward, it’s unclear what O’Neale will do for a recall after the biggest blow of his professional career. But whatever the situation, you can bet he’ll be ready – after all, he’s already survived so far, now comes the fun part.

“Whether I hit or miss, I put in all the hard work over the summer and throughout the year,” he said. “I’m going to keep shooting. … These guys trust me and keep finding me, so they keep telling me to shoot, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

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