Jameel Warney Hopes for Bigger With USA Basketball World Cup Qualifying Team
The center was MVP at the 2017 AmeriCup and is in training camp aiming for a World Cup spot.
The last time Jameel Warney donned a USA Basketball jersey and competed for his country, it led to one of the most remarkable moments of his young life.
Warney, a 6-foot-7 center who starred in college for four years at Stony Brook University, earned the 2017 Male Athlete of the Year award from USA Basketball.
His performances in two separate tournaments with the national team last year earned him a place alongside previous illustrious winners of the award such as Michael Jordan, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
Not bad company.
Warney led the U.S. men to a gold medal last year in the 2017 FIBA AmeriCup with a 5-0 record, earning the tournament’s most valuable player award. He averaged 13.0 points and 9.0 rebounds per game and made nearly 65.0 percent of his shots. He then joined the USA World Cup Qualifying Team in November, again playing for coach Jeff Van Gundy, and helped the U.S. win two more games.
He’s back in a red, white and blue jersey this month as the USA World Cup Qualifying Team prepares in Las Vegas for two second-round games, including against Uruguay at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion on Sept. 14 and versus Panama on Sept. 17 in Panama City.
“It’s a tremendous opportunity to play with USA Basketball again,” Warney said after a recent practice. “It was fun the first few times I did it, so I wanted to come back and help the team hopefully get some wins.”
Warney said he enjoys the camaraderie with teammates and also likes playing for and learning from Van Gundy, who has 18 years of NBA coaching experience on his resume.
“He’s a great coach but a better person,” Warney said. “You learn a lot from him during these windows. He’s a coach that you’d run through a wall for.”
Warney has enjoyed other successes in the past year on the court away from USA Basketball. He spent nearly three months playing in the Chinese NBL for Anhui Wenyi. It was a growth experience on the court and off for Warney.
Being immersed in a culture so different from that of the United States helped him broaden his world view. He brought one of his good friends with him, so he would always have someone with whom he could have conversations. He said that made the experience better.
He said one of the biggest challenges when he wasn’t with the team was knowing what to eat.
“Pick what you know and hope for the best,” he said.
Warney also experienced the thrill of playing in the NBA last season after two previous years in the G League. The Dallas Mavericks signed him to a 10-day contract in March, and he played in three games. The former three-time America East Conference MVP at Stony Brook hopes to earn more opportunities in the coming season.
When he was younger, Warney said he looked up to big men such as Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. More recently, he has tried to take lessons from players such as Draymond Green and Paul Milsap to improve his game. Like Green and Milsap, Warney is an undersized big man who has to be capable of defending multiple positions and playing all over the court.
While it has been a year full of memorable moments, perhaps the most special on a personal level was the interaction he had with his mother, Denise, when he arrived home last year from Argentina after his AmeriCup experience.
He decided to give his mom his gold medal because of all the toil and sacrifices she made for him as he was growing up.
“It was a great experience getting that medal,” he said. “So we’re all going to cherish it. That medal has special meaning to me.”
Warney is looking forward to his opportunity to compete and represent his country again this month. He doesn’t know if it will lead to more opportunities, such as place on the World Cup roster next year. He said he’s taking each step as it comes.
“I never thought I could play for Team USA,” Warney said. “So I’ve got to thank the G League for that and the USA Basketball committee for choosing me to help in this qualifying window. It’s definitely a crazy thing that happened for me, and it’s definitely been a crazy last year for me. It’s always fun though.”