Note: The following piece is written by former Stony Brook forward and current Texas Legends power forward Jameel Warney. This is the second part of a continuous series titled “The Warney Files” where Warney will be writing about his experiences as he starts his career in the D-League. Warney can be followed on Twitter @fullcoursemeelz.
I couldn’t wait to get back out on the court in front of the crowd. For me it felt like my first “real” game since I lost to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament. All the workouts, draft prep and practices had led to this point.
My first time driving to the arena on game day is something I’ll never forget. The feeling before the game was being nervous about the outcome but very excited to play and knowing that If I play to my abilities and stick to my strengths which helps put my team in a position to win on a nightly basis.
Life as a pro basketball player is really so much different than college. An example when you’re driving in your car on the way to the arena where have a chance to take in everything around you. There’s no better D-League location than Frisco, I’m truly blessed to be apart of this organization. Beyond all of the shopping and food options in the area, it’s the people that really make it a special place.
Each morning before games we’ll have shoot-around and run through the plays and scouts for that night. After that it’s time to relax and go over any last minute adjustments on my own before getting to the arena about an hour and a half before game time.
Before every game this year, I’ve watched stand-up comedy to help me loosen up and get focused. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been running through a bunch of Mike Epps, Dave Chappelle, Martin Lawrence and Deon Cole clips on YouTube.
Once I found out AJ (Hammons) had been sent down by the Dallas Mavericks so he could get some reps I knew I wouldn’t be starting that first game, but I made sure I would be ready whenever my number was called.
It was fun once the game got going. It’s always great to see the hard work from the offseason pay off in game situations. The offense clicked quickly, and we jumped out to a 20 point lead against the Maine Red Claws. In the end we ended up playing a little too fast and losing 137-131 in a crazy offensive game.
The first time stepping on the floor as a pro is special, years of work and countless hours of practice and training went into that one moment. There’s still much more work to be done to get where I want to be, but knowing I was taking the next step as a player was a satisfying experience.
In the end I played a little too fast and had five fouls in 13 minutes (the bad), while scoring 7 points and pulling down 6 rebounds (the good). Playing ball is much like life, every day there’s some ups and some downs, but constant self improvement is what matters.
After the first game we had a week until our game in Illinois against the Windy City Bulls. Coach MacKinnon gave us a couple of days off before we got back to practice on Tuesday. Having back to back days off was definitely a weird feeling for me, I can’t remember the last time it’s happened mid season.
I spent the off days prepping for the week and playing some video games to relax.That included playing against some of my college buddies back home in some GTA 5 online.
Back at practice we spent the next four days working on our mistakes from the first game and preparing for Windy City. By the weekend we would be on the road until Thanksgiving.
The road trip was a great bonding experience for me and my teammates. The Friday night before the game a bunch of us went to Buffalo Wild Wings to eat and hang. Our team has a college vibe to it where we do things mostly together rather than each guy going off on their own, which is cool.
Saturday before the game Kyle (Collinsworth) and I went off to Target to grab some snacks and stuff we needed for the road trip. Kyle’s the teammate I’ve become closest with, he’s a great guy who’s unselfish and is always pushing me-- not to mention he’s about that healthy eating lifestyle which hasn’t always been my style.
That night against Windy City, I was finally able to get my first start I knew if I was aggressive on defense and on the boards that the offensive opportunities would come. At this point my role is as an intangibles guy, do whatever it takes to help the team win.
We came away with a 108-98 win after strong second, third and fourth quarters. I recorded my first double-double as a pro with 16 points and 13 rebounds even though I missed a couple of chippies, something that still stuck with me even though we won the game.
The next morning we flew out early to Reno, and were off until practice Monday night. After we settled in at the hotel Sunday morning we ate breakfast at this spot that had blueberry pancakes the size of my head, easily the best part of the trip.
The rest of the day was spent playing video games and watching my teammates play FIFA, which definitely isn’t my game. I’m the guy who tries to dribble the ball through four defenders with one player instead of passing it all over.
That monday practice on the day before the Bighorns was tough as I just remember not being able to breathe from the altitude change. Tuesday against Reno we played a little sluggish and fought until the end, but lost on a tough game winner by fellow Jersey boy Malachi Richardson. I played pretty well and finished with 24 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks, but in the end it wasn’t enough to get the win.
Following Reno we played the next day in Salt Lake City (aka Kyle Collinsworth territory), our flight was early and I was up and out well before sunrise. By the time we hit SLC we were in our third time zone of the road trip.
Not sure if I set a record for the quickest foul out in this one, but it’s gotta be close. In 11 minutes of action I recorded 6 fouls without a point, rebound or assist... Andre (Dawkins) likes to get on me about it.
The next day we were finally back in Frisco, and it was Thanksgiving. Life’s a trip on the road for the holidays. I’m looking at everyone eating all of this delicious food with their families on Instagram while I’m out at Best Buy buying a laptop and eating at IHOP...if you need a spokesman you know who to call.
It definitely helps you appreciate everyone who can’t make it back home for the holidays, especially the members of our military.
Friday we went back to work with a lift in the morning and practice/film in the afternoon. Coach MacKinnon got into me good after my last performance and from that point on I was locked in for Saturday.
AJ was back down again from Dallas so I didn’t start, but unfortunately he picked up two quick fouls and had to sit. That gave me a chance to get some early minutes and I felt good out there. From the moment I stepped on the floor I was locked in on both ends. In the end I had a pretty good night with 24 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, but more importantly we won the game. It felt good to show my teammates what I can do against the same team I no-showed against the previous game.
So here we are sitting at 2-3 with a chance to get back to .500 in front of our home crowd before hitting the road again. I’m looking forward to the rest of this season with a chance to improve each day.
Nothing’s better than turning the doubters into believers.