Normally when Team USA fields a basketball team, it is a star studded lineup that features the best players in the NBA. However, when Team USA went overseas to play in the FIBA AmeriCup tournament, the roster was full of G League alums. Among those on the squad was Jameel Warney, a relative unknown to those who don’t follow the G League.
Jameel Warney had dominated the G League last season, which may have led to some of his success at the FIBA AmeriCup. “I mean it was great, you could tell about a month in I got a lot more comfortable and got a bigger role. Over the season, some games I was the starter, others I played 15 minutes off the bench or even sometimes I was the fifth option. Then fast forward to the end of the season and I’m one of the top scorers on the team and had a big role. So coach Bob MacKinnon really helped me get used to many roles I could see in the NBA,” Warney explained in a recent one-on-one phone interview.
Following his dominant G League season, where he averaged 17.3 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.2 blocks and one steal, Warney was invited to try out to make Team USA.
Following a couple practices, head coach Jeff Van Gundy now had the task to make the roster. “Well we had practice on a Monday or a Tuesday. So Van Gundy told us the process of if you are going to make the team or not, so you are just waiting around for a few hours to see if you are going to make the team or not,” Warney stated, who ended up making the team. “We got a text message saying we made the team and congrats on making the team. So we then texted our teammates saying congrats on making the team can’t wait for us to play together, and working with you guys.”
After making the team, the hard work continued for Warney and Team USA. The squad became even closer according to Warney after a motivational speech was made by San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich.
“At one of our practices we had coach Popovich come and visit. Pop gave us a real motivational speech, he just told us what it is like to represent the country and how great of an experience it will be. And there will be some adversity, going to a different country, and playing against teams who have been playing together most of the summer and we are just putting it together in two weeks. So there is gonna be a lot of adversity but you just have to stick together and make it fun,” he explained.
Following some easy wins, USA was going to be up against their hardest match in Argentina. There was no question on paper that Argentina looked like the better team and to start the game it appeared Team USA, was way in over its head. As in the gold medal game, the G Leaguers failed to make open shots in the first half putting them down by a sizable margin. “Yeah, you always have to have confidence in yourself and your team that you will win it. We went to Uruguay and played Uruguay in a hostile environment, and it helped us prepare for Argentina. But they are a really good team, so we knew we were going to get Argentina’s best punch. But I mean we just weren’t making shots in the first half, they were making shots,” he stated about the confidence in Team USA following the first half.
To start off the second half, Argentina continued their success and the bullying of Team USA in the paint continued. Many thought Team USA was out of it, and Argentina was going to win. The one decision by Van Gundy changed the game. “In the 2nd half they got off to the quick start and got up 20, and coach Van Gundy called a timeout and that when we turned it around. We knew we weren’t going to get bullied anymore, and outplayed, we knew we had to get out there and start playing. But we also knew that we couldn’t get it back, all in one possession, and we had to just chip away. So in the fourth quarter when it got to single digits, we thought they were going to tighten up a little and I mean all pressures on them to close it out. And that's whats happened so we capitalized on it,” the Texas Legends big explained.
Team USA by the help of the monster performance from Jameel Warney came back and ended up winning the gold medal game over Argentina. Arguably the biggest moment of these G Leaguers careers. “Oh I mean it was great, and I bonded with a lot of the guys, that were on the team. They made it well worth it, the weeks flew by. We shared the ball well, and played the game as a team, there wasn’t one selfish player out there because we all had the goal of winning it together, and win the gold. So we were all dedicated to doing that, and being a family so it was cool,” said Warney.
To add onto that huge accomplishment for Warney was after the game, the youngest player on the team and a bench player was named MVP. A big accomplishment for Warney in the hopes for an NBA deal “Oh it was crazy. Normally for MVP, you don’t think about someone coming off the bench, but yeah I did put in a lot of effort. Coach Van Gundy and his coaching staff put me in a good position to succeed but the players also put me in a great position, to succeed. They trusted me from day one, as it was kind of hard being the youngest player on the team, and they trust you but they did and they were true professionals. They helped me out along the way and they made my job easier, to get open and roll to the basket and just play defense and everything else will come to me,” the gold medalist stated
After this most recent success, the hope now for Warney is the success on the international stage will lead to an NBA contract. “Oh yeah I mean every time you get to showcase your talent you hope an NBA team is watching,” Warney stated “But also we had such a well-respected coaching staff in Van Gundy and his guys, so maybe his words can carry a little power. So hopefully some teams talk to him about how I was and put in a good word for me and go from there.” he said. “Yeah, some teams but it’s not really 100% right now so you just gotta give it a couple days and see where it goes from there. Right now my agent is just talking to a bunch of teams so I just let my agent know whats going on and when it's showtime to make a deal lets do something.”
However, if Warney doesn’t get an NBA deal it appears he will be heading back to Texas and play in the G League. “Yeah, that is the plan. If anything doesn’t happen I have a good relationship with the Texas Legends and know a lot of Texas Legends. So I mean they hold my rights so it will be another year in the G League. So that is the plan on being back with the Legends if no NBA deal happens,” Warney explained.
But one thing that many think about the G League is the pay, and how you can’t do it two years in a row, but for Warney, it doesn’t matter. “You know the thing is I’m still kind of young. So I still have time. But then again I’m not gonna spend my entire life in the G League, so if anything doesn’t happen NBA wise this is probably my last year in the G League, and then I’ll head overseas,” Warney stated .
The hope for Warney is at least an NBA contract as he deserves it as he has dominated everywhere he has played and this recent showing on the international stage lands him an NBA deal. Warney deserves the chance to showcase his skills on an NBA roster, and many people who have followed the G League will be rooting for him.