Team USA won the FIBA AmeriCup gold medal on Sunday night, pulling off a stunning second-half rally to overtake Argentina for an 81-76 victory in enemy territory. Stony Brook Men’s basketball legend Jameel Warney spearheaded the team’s comeback, finishing the game with 21 points and seven rebounds.
“Just a few weeks ago, we didn’t know each other,” Warney said. “Fast-forward a few weeks later and we all achieved a dream that we never thought would be possible. Now we have a bond that’ll never be broken, ever.”
While Team USA finished the tournament with a perfect 5-0 record, the team’s gold-medal victory was anything but a perfect performance. Warney and company trailed the Argentinians by 20 points on hostile soil in the third quarter. They managed to outscore their opponents 48-24 in the final 16:19 of the game to come away with the win in the AmeriCup gold medal game.
“It was crazy,” Warney said. “We were down 20, things weren’t going our way, playing in a hostile environment in Argentina. We just knew we had to get stops. We came out to a slow start in the second half, but after that timeout we just knew we had to believe in ourselves and just find ways to get points. We knew we couldn’t get all the points back in one possession, so we kept on chipping at it and putting some pressure on Argentina.”
Warney was named the FIBA AmeriCup MVP for his efforts, averaging 12.8 points and 8.6 rebounds throughout the tournament. The award puts him in the company of fellow AmeriCup MVP winners and NBA standouts Steve Nash, Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola.
Reflecting on the championship, Warney ranked his experience with Team USA as one of his most memorable, fighting for the top spot with the 2016 America East Championship he helped the Seawolves secure as a senior.
“It has to be between the championship my senior year and this,” Warney said. “There’s so much more emotional investment with Stony Brook that made that so much sweeter. But this is up there because you’re representing your country and going to all these hostile environments in other countries. When you’re playing Argentina at Argentina, combined with your team, there’s maybe 14 people rooting for you versus a whole country.”
Warney’s spark-plug performances coming off the bench for Team USA garnered him praise from teammates and coaches alike. The team’s head coach Jeff Van Gundy lauded the former Seawolves’ versatility and continued improvement on the court.
“The thing I like about Jameel is he gives us an inside presence that we can throw the ball to in the post,” Van Gundy said in a USA Basketball press release. “He’s got good hands. He can finish with either hand. He is an exceptional offensive rebounder, and defensively, he continues to grow and process. From the first day of training camp until now, there’s no question that he has shown a great deal of improvement.”
Before being named the head coach of Team USA at the AmeriCup, Van Gundy enjoyed a respected career as an NBA head coach, most notably with the New York Knicks in the late 1990’s. Van Gundy’s Knicks qualified for the playoffs every year he was in charge, making history in the 1999 playoffs as the only eighth-seed to ever advance to the NBA Finals.
“You can see why he’s so well respected,” Warney said of Van Gundy. “Anything he said, you listened to. He gives you 100 percent. If you play bad or good in a game, he’ll tell you. Even when you win games he’ll point out the things you should work on so you won’t get complacent. That’s something you take for your career, just never get complacent and just find out ways to get better.”
Although he spent his first professional season playing for the Texas Legends in the NBA G League, Warney’s impressive AmeriCup performance sparked interest in some high places. Warney mentioned that his agent has fielded a couple calls from NBA teams since Sunday night, though he declined to name specific teams.
Whatever the future may bring for Stony Brook basketball’s brightest star, Warney has proven time and time again that he can elevate his game in the face of adversity. Now, he just wants to see what happens next.
“I’m really excited for the future,” Warney said. “This is definitely a big turning point in my career, and hopefully we’ll see what happens. Maybe if I get lucky I’ll get a training camp invite, but it’s not the end of the world if I don’t. I’ll just keep on working at it, and I will get one.”