The fact that Stony Brook University did not wait even one year to honor Jameel Warney was part of the honor itself. The school did its share of waiting for decades before it finally reached the NCAA Tournament, a wait that Warney ended last March.
So there he was at center court Saturday night, watching a red and white banner, inscribed “WARNEY 20. 2012-16” as it was unfurled in the rafters. That came right after the sellout crowd at Island Federal Credit Union Arena watched a video that ended with Warney celebrating the America East title on that same floor last year, a victory that finally sent the Seawolves into March Madness.
Athletic director Shawn Heilbron said during the ceremony at halftime Saturday night that retiring Warney’s number was “absolutely the easiest decision of my professional career” and added that right after the team’s game against Kentucky in The Big Dance, he promised Stony Brook’s all-time leading scorer, rebounder and shot-blocker that “No one will ever wear No. 20 for Stony Brook again. Tonight we make that official.”
When the spotlight was switched from the banner to Warney, it caught the alumnus wiping away a tear. When he took the microphone, he said, “Boy, this is crazy.”
Then the former Seawolf — now a member of the Texas Legends of the NBA D-League — thanked the people involved in the ceremony as well as his coaches, teammates and fans. He drew a big cheer when he thanked his mother, Denise, who was present.
The crowd gave a sustained roar as university president Samuel Stanley recalled the excitement of that memorable victory over Vermont. “That was one tough mountain to climb,” Stanley said. “On behalf of this crowd tonight, Stony Brook University and everybody in our region, thank you. Thank you very much.”
State Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson), a Seawolves season-ticket holder, presented Warney a proclamation from the state legislature. “By the way, it passed unanimously in both houses,” LaValle said, telling Warney the state made the gesture “on behalf of all of these people who would tell you we love you.”
Heilbron closed the ceremony by saying, “A lot of people say, ‘Why retire his jersey, just one year removed?’ When you love someone, you don’t wait to tell them.”
The feeling was mutual for Warney, who said earlier in the week that he was a shy, homesick New Jersey teen- ager when he first showed up on campus but grew in maturity and in his regard for Stony Brook, which he calls his second home.
On Saturday night, he received two framed No. 20 jerseys and one more resounding memory. He told the packed house, “It was an honor to play for you these last four years, an honor I will not forget.”
Times AE player of year