Because of his 6’8”, 260-pound frame, Jameel Warney ’16, like many big men, had to struggle to master the game of basketball.
“I was terrible until I was 14 or 15,” said the Plainfield, NJ native. Arriving at Stony Brook as a shy player surrounded by proven upperclassmen, Jameel went on to capture the America East Conference Player of the Year — twice.
So what changed? If you ask Jameel, it’s his work ethic that made the difference.
Stony Brook coach Steve Pikiell agrees with that assessment, also crediting Jameel’s physical maturation to his becoming the heart and soul of the men’s basketball team and an America East star.
“Jameel transformed his body,” said Pikiell. “There was a time when his limit was 25 minutes a game. Now we regularly play him more than 35 minutes a game.”
Jameel credited Mike Heller and Jimmy Burke, his Amateur Athletic Union coaches with the New Jersey Hot Shots, with believing in him early on.
When he became a Seawolf in 2012, the upperclassmen core of Tommy Brenton, Marcus Rouse, Eric McAlister and Lenny Hayes set a high bar that inspired Jameel to succeed at the collegiate level.
“Tommy was the America East Player of the Year my freshman year,” said Jameel. “He told me to play every game as if it was my last.” Another upperclassman, McAlister, befriended him, helped him come out of his shell and become comfortable with the program.
Jameel said that Pikiell also was a major motivating force for him.
“He makes people want to play and gets those intangibles out of us, like diving on the floor for the ball. Whether you’re the best player on the team or the 12th man, you feel good about yourself.”
Jameel said that much of his motivation is fueled by his gratitude. When Jameel was about to enter high school, his mother decided it would be best if he attended Roselle Catholic because of its excellent academic and basketball reputation. His sister was willing to sacrifice attending an expensive university so that he could realize his dream. Roselle was where Jameel’s game took off and the experience taught him to be loyal to those who stood by him.
Jameel has jelled with the Seawolves since his freshman year. “We win 20 games a year playing great competition every night, but our goal is still making the NCAA Tournament,” he said.
Jameel’s performance on November 23, 2014, against the Detroit Titans was eye-opening — he scored 32 points, hauled in 21 rebounds and made the go-ahead layup in the final seconds. “It showed me that I could do this at a high level,” Jameel said.
According to Warney, his greatest single accomplishment, however, came last year when he netted America East Defensive Player of the Year. That honor best exemplifies his growth as a defensive player, an area of inconsistency for Jameel during his first two years at Stony Brook.
Off the court, Jameel is a multidisciplinary studies major with a love for mathematics and a flair for numbers. His status as a model student has him on track to graduate in four years.
Perhaps Coach Pikiell summarizes Jameel’s future most aptly.
“Jameel is playing at a high level right now, but the best is ahead of him.”
Catch Jameel in action in our battle for conference supremacy at home against archrival Albany on January 22 at 9 pm. More on this week’s big game.
— Glenn Jochum