The men who actually have coached former Stony Brook University basketball star Jameel Warney — Jeff Van Gundy of the USA men’s national team and Bob MacKinnon of the G League Texas Legends — say he’s good enough to make an NBA roster. But while Warney is dominating in the G League nearly every time he suits up for the Legends, he still is waiting for that elusive call from an NBA team willing to take a chance on an undersized inside player.
Warney returned to Long Island on Monday with the Legends, and he scored 27 points and had 14 rebounds in a loss to the Long Island Nets at Nassau Coliseum. Following the game, MacKinnon described Warney as “the best inside player in the G League this season and for the last three months last season.”
This is Warney’s second season with the Legends, who are owned by the Dallas Mavericks. He played on the Mavs’ summer league team, and is averaging 18.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists with the Legends. Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle has been very complimentary about Warney’s talents, but the Mavs didn’t even make him one of their two-way players.
Is Warney disappointed? “It’s strictly business,” Warney told Newsday. “There’s obviously something I’m not doing to make teams pick me up. There’s something I’m doing wrong, but I’m going to keep on playing the way I play and keep on improving what I do. If you ask me in five years, I’m going to be in the NBA. So, I don’t worry about it.”
Since being selected to the U.S. men’s national team last summer, Warney has done everything right. He was MVP of the AmeriCup 2017 tournament, leading the U.S. to a 5-0 record while averaging 12.8 points and 8.6 rebounds and shooting 64.9 percent, including a 21-point, 7-rebound effort in the gold medal win over Argentina. In World Cup qualifying in November, Warney averaged 11.5 points and 8.9 rebounds while shooting 57.9 percent in wins over Mexico and Puerto Rico.
In his other role as an NBA television commentator, Van Gundy also has touted Warney as being deserving of an NBA roster spot. “I mean, he’s the best coach I ever got coached by,” Warney said. “He’s a great guy. You can definitely see his charisma from [his television work]. I love my time that I had with him and the USA national team.
“His voice has a little respect. I’m happy that he shouted me out on national TV. He’s given me so much love on national TV. It’s good that I have him on my side, but I’ve got to keep on working to get better.”
At 6-7, 259 pounds, Warney is undersized for a center or even a power forward, and while he has worked to extend his shooting range to the foul line, he simply isn’t a three-point shooter who can space the floor. Despite those limitations, he has proven to be a solid rebounder and an excellent passer for a big man. Given that so many NBA teams often employ small lineups, there might be a chance for him yet.
“That’s the good part is there’s ‘small ball’ now,” Warney said. “There’s a place for me in the league. I just have to keep on improving and do what I have to do. I’ll be there sooner or later.”