In advance of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, the Americas Qualifiers take place next week and Team USA will of course be back to participate after capturing the gold medal at the FIBA AmeriCup Championship this past summer.
The 12-man roster featuring the very best players in the G League will be almost 20 percent comprised of Texas Legends, as big man Jameel Warney and point guard Donald Sloan have been invited to participate. As you surely know, Warney was a part of the roster this past August/September and won MVP of the entire tournament. As he says, it didn’t automatically grant him a spot back on the team, but nevertheless, he’s one of four who is indeed set to return.
”It’s great to come back,” says the 23-year old. “They didn’t have to bring me back so it’s an honor to get back on that team and try to win some games.”
In the championship game against Argentina, Warney recorded 21 points and seven rebounds and he’s more than ready for an encore. “I’m going to do the same things I always do. I’m going to play hard, control the things I can control and hopefully play well. I’m going in the same way I do everything. Open-minded, accept any role I have, play hard with my minutes and just try to help the team win. At the end of the day, it’s all about getting a win.”
Sloan, 29, is a brand new Legend and is lighting it up so far through four games, averaging 26 points on 56 percent shooting in his last three. This will be the second time he’s represented his country, previously playing in the 2011 Pan American Games.
“I’m thrilled,” says Sloan. “An opportunity to represent your country doing something you love is terrific. Once they told me they were looking at every guy in the G League available –including free agents– I was first one of the 24 they were looking at actually selecting. I was stoked.”
Sloan is one of eight players with NBA experience on the team, but his 218 games in the senior circuit is 100 more than anyone else. He’s looking forward to being a steady voice in the USA locker room.
“I think that’ll be good. Looking at some of the guys that were selected and just being one of the guys that has NBA experience, playoff experience, started throughout a big portion of an NBA season, played a backup role for a pretty good team, I’m there not only to learn from coach and to beat Mexico and Puerto Rico but also to hone in on the young guys and let them know kind of what to expect. What my journey was like, be a mentor and just be there to show guys that the grind never stops.”
Warney, who is averaging a double-double through four Legends contests, knows he’s living a red, white and blue dream that few can even imagine. “I mean, it’s crazy. At the games in Argentina over the summer, you had that sense of pride and you just want to win for the country. It’s great pride, a great feeling and I’m happy to have the experience again to do this.”
Sloan echoes the sentiment and joins Warney in doubling up in Team USA appearances. ”You don’t get many chances to represent the USA on this kind of level. To play in 2011 and then to follow up and play in 2017, looking at that team there was 12 of us, I think eight guys aren’t playing anymore and two are coaching. That leaves me, (Legends teammate) Justin Dentmon and two or three more guys (including New York Knicks forward Lance Thomas) that are still playing from that team. Just to still be going at it is good enough for me.”
Jeff Van Gundy will return to coach the team after a 5-0 record in the summer’s AmeriCup games. “He’s one of the greatest coaches in NBA history,” Warney says. “It’s great to have a few days playing for him, learning from him and having him be my coach is a great honor.”
Playing for Van Gundy will be a first time affair for the NBA veteran Sloan and it’s something he’s very much looking forward to.
“I’ve always admired Jeff Van Gundy from afar, watching him coach and commentate. To actually be under him and be one of his player for the time being, I think will be great. After that, who knows what’s next?”
‘Next’ will have to wait a little because the ‘now’ is truly special for these two Texas Legends players. Training opens Friday, November 17th in North Carolina before a date with Puerto Rico on Thursday, November 23rd at 6:30 PM CT in Orlando with a tilt against Mexico on Sunday, November 26th at 4 PM CTback in Greensboro.
A reunion with three of his gold medal winning teammates awaits, as well as introductions to others that Warney is already familiar with. “It’s just great to meet different types of people. Usually, you play against some of these guys in the G League and in college so it’s great to finally play on the same team as them and get to know them on and off the court. It’s fun. It’s great to bring people together for one common goal and that’s to win.”
Sloan adds that in this day and age, a little USA basketball will go a long way. “With all that’s going on in the country, sports brings us together."