As I talk to Jameel Warney, he has just stepped off the plane and is back home in New Jersey. The New Brunswick native is averaging 14 points and 6.9 rebounds in 26.4 minutes with the Texas Legends. The 23-year old also averages 1.3 blocks and has started 18 of 27 games played during his rookie season.
Warney’s stellar play on the court isn’t the only cause for celebration, however. Earlier this year, Stony Brook University announced that they will retire Warney’s number 20 on Saturday, February 18th. To call Warney a decorated Stony Brook Seawolves alum would be a dramatic understatement.
In his four years as a Seawolf, Warney established himself as the university’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, blocks and games played. The Stony Brook basketball team has never retired a jersey and the athletic program has recognized one overall, six-time All-Star Major League Baseball pitcher Joe Nathan.
“It’s been a topic of conversation since after the season last year,” says the Plainfield, New Jersey native. “The schedule matched up this year and I guess they didn’t want to wait –I’m happy they didn’t want to wait! I’m happy that I can get my jersey retired just because of how much I love Stony Brook.”
During his illustrious career, Warney averaged 15.8 points, 9.4 rebounds and two blocks a night, shooting 59.6 percent from the field. He averaged highs of 19.8 points and three blocks his senior season. The trio of blocks a night tied for third in the entire nation.
The 6’7”, 259-pound big man was named America East Conference Player of the Year in each of his final three seasons at school. “It was good (to be successful). I learned a lot from being the so-called ‘man’ on that team. I learned every day you have to bring hard work. People look up to you. If you won it’s the team, but if you lose it’s kind of your fault. I learned how to deal with things and it helped me off the court, too, to become a better person.”
His penultimate game in Stony Brook red was the AEC Conference Championship Game against Vermont. On the big stage, Warney performed even bigger. He scored 43 points and became the first ever Seawolves player to score 40 points in a game, helping lead the Seawolves to the conference title.
The following matchup came on the big stage in the big dance: March Madness. Leading Stony Brook to their first ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament, Warney was up to the task against the NBA prospects on the Kentucky Wildcats’ roster. Warney’s response was 23 points and 15 rebounds.
Mar 17, 2016; Des Moines, IA, USA; Kentucky Wildcats forward Skal Labissiere (1) handles the ball against Stony Brook Seawolves forward Jameel Warney (20) during the first half in the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament at Wells Fargo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
From conference tournament play through the biggest game in the university’s 56-year history, their star player averaged an absurd 28.5 points, 15.3 rebounds, shot 64.2 percent from the field, and made seven free throws per game.
After graduating Roselle Catholic High School as their all-time leading scorer, the decision to attend Stony Brook had several mutual benefits. “I just wanted to go to a place where it fit my skill set. I wanted to play right away. Stony Brook was a great fit for me to play right away as a freshman. I learned a lot over that four years at Stony Brook and I’m happy that I made my decision to go there.”
Warney is the right mix of talent and the will to work. He’s also a genuinely funny human being. His Twitter name, @FullCourseMeelz, was his own creation and he laughs at the memory of its berth. “One day my freshman year I just thought of it and people thought it was actually really, really funny.”
During his freshman season was when Warney says he started to draw comparisons to NBA player DeJuan Blair. As fate would have it, he played with his popular look-and-play-alike this season when Blair was briefly his teammate in Frisco with the Legends.
“It was really cool!” Warney fondly recalls his time shared with Blair on and off the court. “I mean, I got that comparison since I was a freshman in college. It was great to meet the man face-to-face that people compared me to. You can kinda see the similarities in our game. He’s a really good player, he was in the NBA for a few years. It’s great to see how he prepared himself every day, his work ethic and how great he was.”
Just one of 108 players in college basketball history to achieve 2,000 points (2,132) and 1,000 rebounds (1,275), Stony Brook Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron calls the legacy of Warney “unmatched” as his jersey takes its “rightful place in the rafters.”
“It means a lot,” Warney discusses the upcoming big day. “I put in a lot of hard work over my four years there. Anybody who knows me knows how much I hold Stony Brook dear to my heart. It’s a really great honor for me and my family to say that I did something well and people are gonna remember me by it. It’s gonna be a real special experience for me.”