Survival isn’t a strange word to Royce O’Neale.

In fact, throughout his entire basketball career, survival is arguably a trait that O’Neale feels the most comfortable in. Ever since he was a rising star out of Harker Heights High School in Kileen, TX, O’Neale has been doubted everywhere he’s been.

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

“Being undrafted, it just sticks with you,” O’Neale said. “I wasn’t going to let it end there. … It was about getting 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 I could play at the level.”

But through those lessons of survival, something changed in O’Neale.

A fearlessness replaced feelings of inadequacy. A fight he held deep within began to show outward — and in return, confidence began to take shape. O’Neale went from someone happy to be in the NBA to a prominent role player on a title-contending team primarily to his boldness on the court.

He never shied away from his role with the Jazz, embracing it so much that he reveled in being the villain of opposing teams, constantly harassing and pestering them — and all with that signature smile shining.

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

But before he ever launched the game-clinching three-pointer, O’Neale had to overcome a month’s worth of struggles.

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

Yet since that time, O’Neale had gone from an elite three-point shooter to someone struggling massively. It got to a point where it appeared he lost confidence in his shot, passing up open looks consistently.

Those struggles continued for most of the game on Saturday — although he was sensational in many other aspects. He was 0-for-4 (0-for-2 from deep) through 45 minutes of action, again passing up some open shots.

Yet when it mattered most, O’Neale looked very much like that elite shooter he was for most of the season. Leading by one, and after a Dallas three-pointer, O’Neale hit a stepback three-pointer off the dribble to give Utah a four-point lead with less than a minute to play, extending a Jazz lead they would never relinquish.

“It was a big make,” O’Neale said of his shot. “Every day, I just keep shooting the ball. Shooters go through slumps and just not think about the past. … Keep thinking that every one that I shoot after that is going in. Donovan [Mitchell] made a great play, found me, and just trusted in myself to make it.”

Moving forward, it’s unknown what O’Neale will do for an encore following the biggest shot of his professional career. But regardless of whatever the situation is, you can bet that he’ll be ready — after all, he’s already survived to this point, now comes the fun part.

“Whether I make or miss a shot, I put in all of the work during the summer and throughout the whole 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.”


We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.


Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?