Shareef O'Neal is ALMOST ready to hit the hardwood again ... the UCLA star tells TMZ Sports he's just a month and a half away from a return to the court!!!
"I feel great," he says.
Shareef underwent heart surgery to correct an irregularity back in December ... and his post-op pictures showed just how serious the procedure really was.
But, when we got the 19-year-old leaving Staples Center on Wednesday night ... he was in good spirits -- and tells us his first workouts since the operation are just DAYS away.
In fact, Shareef says Shaq will play a BIG role in his gameplan for a return to the Bruins when he's cleared, telling us his pops, "knows basketball."
Shareef was an elite prospect coming out of Crossroads H.S. in Santa Monica ... and he famously flipped his commitment from Arizona to UCLA late in his recruiting process.
The power forward was expected to be a key piece of the Bruins this season ... but his heart surgery sidelined him for his entire freshman season.
UCLA's clearly missed him ... the team is just 16-13 this season and will likely miss the NCAA Tournament if they don't win the Pac-12 tourney this month.