Rick Carlisle called out his name to go in the game. This was Sunday night at American Airlines Center in Dallas. This was the fourth quarter against Houston. This was the moment he craved.
Jameel Warney, welcome to the NBA.
“When Coach called my name, my legs were shaking,” Warney said. “But I knew just go out, play, do what I do best.”
After his debut for the Mavericks, the 24-year-old former Stony Brook star and Plainfield, New Jersey, native had another unforgettable experience Tuesday night. He returned to his home area and got on the court in front of family and friends at Madison Square Garden as an NBA player.
Carlisle gave him 11:33 of time spread across the second, third and fourth quarters, and he looked like he belonged. Warney went 4-for-7 and contributed eight points and three rebounds in the Mavs’ 110-97 win over the Knicks.
“It was fun,” Warney said. “ . . . I’m proud of how I performed.”
Warney took the long way to the NBA.
The three-time America East Player of the Year went undrafted in 2016 as an undersized big man. He spent time the last two preseasons with Dallas and played these last two seasons with its Texas Legends G League affiliate, starring at center and power forward, averaging a combined 18.5 points and 8.8 rebounds.
The Mavericks signed the boyhood New Jersey Nets fan Sunday to a 10-day contract.
“It’s definitely a dream come true,” Warney said. “It just shows never give up on your dream. A lot of people said I couldn’t do it because I’m 6-8, labeled chubby and not athletic. But I’m finally here and I’ve got to make the best of this moment.”
There are just five games, including one in Brooklyn Saturday, and limited minutes to prove that he should stay another 10 days or longer. He’s off to a good start.
“That’s my guy,” said an all-time great, teammate Dirk Nowitzki. “He’s a little undersized but makes up for it with strength and smarts and touch around the rim, great positioning. I think he deserves a shot.”
Carlisle likes the view, too, citing Warney’s offensive efficiency, passing, rebounding, defense and “great basketball IQ.” Warney has also added a three-point shot.
“He’s such a great worker that he can’t help but get better,” Carlisle said.
Sadly for Warney, his father, James, couldn’t take in this night. He passed away in January.
“Definitely a bittersweet feeling,” Warney said. “ . . . After he passed away, it was kind of hard to get back to where I was doing. But I had a great support system.”
Warney powered Stony Brook to its first NCAA Tournament appearance. He departed as the program’s career leader in points, rebounds, blocks and games. Now he’s the first alum to make the NBA.
“It’s great,” Warney said. “I’ve been the first to do a lot over there . . . I’m doing this for New Jersey. I’m doing this for Stony Brook. I’m happy they’re proud of me.”