LAS VEGAS — Jameel Warney came to the desert in search of a job, one of dozens of undrafted rookies who are anything but sure things to make an NBA roster. The Stony Brook University product and three-time America East Player of the Year is one of 14 on the Las Vegas summer league roster of the Dallas Mavericks.
The odds are long to make the big club, but if first impressions are the most lasting, Warney is off to a promising start.
On Saturday evening at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion, he had six points and seven rebounds (four offensive) in 15 minutes as the Mavericks opened their summer league schedule with an 83-64 victory over the Miami Heat. On Monday, Warney led the Mavericks with 14 points and eight rebounds in an 80-69 loss to the Toronto Raptors. On Tuesday, in an 88-82 loss to the Celtics, he scored three points with one rebound and picked up five fouls.
“It was really competitive,” Warney said of the Heat game. “Our team had a great effort. It was really sloppy at first, a lot of nervous butterflies, but as the time went on, we started getting accustomed to each other and we got the win.”
Perhaps most importantly, Warney impressed the Mavericks’ summer league head coach, Jamahl Mosley.
“He gave us a great spark off the bench,” Mosley said, referring to the Heat game. “His physical toughness, his ability to just do the little things, is what makes him stand out. He does such small things, and he does them so well. He’s boxing out the right way. He’s setting great screens and rolling and doing all the little things that we continue to ask him to do.”
Warney was the first player off the Dallas bench against the Heat, checking in 3:11 into the first quarter. He did not have to wait long for his “welcome to the NBA” moment. On the first offensive possession of his professional career, Kevin Tumba rejected his lefthanded layup attempt.
On Dallas’ next possession, Warney crashed the glass, nabbed McKenzie Moore’s missed layup and finished with a putback dunk.
“There are going to be some misses, and I can just get there and keep on hustling,” Warney said. “It’s something I’ve always been about, staying on the offensive glass, not letting my man get his offensive rebounds and just playing hard. I know that it’s a different game, but I feel like my special skill is rebounding and playing hard, which translates to wherever we play at.”
Warney had four points and five rebounds in the opening quarter against the Heat. He saw action in all four quarters, encouraged that the coaching staff continued to call his number.
“They kept on trusting me, kept on going back to me,” Warney said. “I think I was solid.”
The challenge for the 6-8 Warney will be to stand out as an undersized power forward in a league that emphasizes stretch fours who can shoot three-pointers. In 135 games with Stony Brook, he attempted 1,483 shots, all from inside the arc. But there is room, he believes, for old-school types who take pride in doing the dirty work.
“In the ’90s era, I’d have no problem,” Warney said. “But it’s a new era, a lot of three-pointers. It doesn’t matter what your skill is. If you play hard and get out on defense and rebound, I feel like any team can use you.”
Warney described his first days in Las Vegas as “incredible,” basking in the experience of playing with and against NBA veterans and former high-major Division I standouts. He talked about his days at Stony Brook and how his coach, Steve Pikiell, always preached being prepared for anything.
Warney said his goal is to make the most of the minutes he is given. The other stuff — an invitation to training camp and an eventual roster spot — is up to the Mavericks.
“My motto is to just play hard,” Warney said, “and that’s the best you can do.”