Several months ago, in November 2017 and February 2018, the men’s USA Basketball team went 5-1 in first-round play of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers. They beat Puerto Rico twice, by eight points each time, with their other three victories by an average margin of 35, and dropped one to Mexico.
Jameel Warney didn’t play in that game. Connect whatever dots you feel like.
Warney, who was MVP of the 2017 summer FIBA Qualifier and USAB’s 2017 Male Athlete of the Year, is back for his third go-around with Team USA. He is reunited with coach Jeff Van Gundy and once again donning what has become a very familiar red, white and blue.
“He’s definitely a big part of the reason I came back to USA, other than playing for the country,” Warney said. “He’s a great coach, someone I’d run through a wall for. It’s always great to play for him and get some wins. It’s always cool to have him teach me for that period of time.”
The second round of the World Cup Qualifiers started last week, with the U.S. squad slated for two games in this installment. First, a home game against Uruguay last Friday in Las Vegas. The following Monday they visited Panama in Panama City.
Those games have come and gone, with Warney and his USA teammates winning both after jumping out to a pair of double-digit first quarter leads. They defeated Uruguay 114-57, then downed Panama 78-48.
Once again proudly representing the Texas Legends, Warney played a modest 20 minutes in game one, before a little over 15 in game two, due to the blowout nature of both contests.
He had nine points in game one and eight in game two along with eight rebounds. He showed his signature knack for offensive rebounding with four, equaling the total on the defensive glass. Team USA was +25 during his time on the floor against Panama, the largest advantage in the game.
Wearing red, white and blue is not getting old for the former Stony Brook star.
“It’s always a cool experience no matter how many times you wear it. It’s still a surreal feeling. If you told me this, maybe three years ago, I wouldn’t have believed you that I would be on Team USA. Even though it’s a qualifying team, it’s always cool to play against competition from other countries.”
Four countries went 7-1 in the FIBA Americas portion of the first two rounds: the United States and Argentina in Group E, Canada and Venezuela in Group F.
It’s worth noting that in the FIBA Asia and FIBA Oceania portion of the bracket, nobody went 8-0. Strongly representing the Down Under, New Zealand and Australia went 7-1.
No country is perfect, after all.
The G League All-Star, FIBA MVP and NBA experienced Warney has become a mainstay on the United States roster.
I ask him if he’s the veteran presence on the team now, and in humble fashion, he laughs at the notion.
“I kind of saw myself helping some of the guys out. Helping learn Van Gundy’s style, telling them about practice and what he’s looking for. It’s always good to know what the coach wants from you and not just blindly go into it.”
Round two has two more slates of games, coming once again in November and February, while Warney and his Team USA bunch are in poll position to clinch a spot for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.