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Steve Pikiell

Jameel Warney signs partially guaranteed deal with Mavericks

Jameel Warney dunks the ball for Stony Brook University. Photo from SBU

By Desirée Keegan

Jameel Warney’s coaches used to say the player held a basketball like a bowling ball, cupping it with his hand and wrist when driving to the basket. He holds the ball a little differently now. He’s gripping it like an NBA pro.

After competing for the Dallas Mavericks’ 2016 Summer League team from July 2 through July 8, Warney, a 6-foot, 8-inch, 260-pound forward, agreed to a partially guaranteed deal with the team, which amounts to a training camp invite.

“I always have the utmost confidence in myself and know that if I play hard, I can do whatever I think I’m capable of doing,” Warney said. “When I play well and with a chip on my shoulder, I won’t be denied. It was great to know that I can play with this level of competition.”

During five Summer League appearances, he averaged 6.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.2 steals and one block per game. Dallas never ran offensive plays designed to get him open, yet Warney still shot 60 percent from the field.

Jameel Warney block a shot for the Seawolves. Photo from SBU
Jameel Warney block a shot for the Seawolves. Photo from SBU

“A lot of hard work went into this and it’s great to get some recognition, but I still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “I was happy that [Dallas] offered to bring me along to training camp, because it’s just another step toward ultimately making my dream come true.”

Although his form may not have been there from the start, the now former Stony Brook University star’s previous head coach, Steve Pikiell, said he’s proud of the player Warney has become. He noted the vast improvement he saw in Warney’s game over the 22-year-old’s four-year tenure with the Seawolves.

“Everyone says great hands, great this, great that, but he’s just a great kid,” Pikiell said. “How he handled himself on and off the court was just awesome. He’s one of the best I’ve worked with in all of my 23 years of coaching.”

Warney began his basketball career as many young players across the country now do; in the Amateur Athletic Union.

“They didn’t think he was going to make it,” his mother Denise Warney said of her son’s coaches. “They said he was very lazy, and he was struggling with the drills and it seemed like something he wasn’t interested in. That all changed in two or three months.”

Warney learned from the experience and established a newfound passion for the sport. Within months, multiple AAU teams were interested in the abnormally tall middle school standout.

From there, Warney joined the varsity basketball team at Roselle Catholic High School in New Jersey. He graduated as the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,968 points, and averaged 17 points, 13.5 rebounds, four assists and 3.5 blocks per game as a senior.

“He’s humble and he’s hardworking. I think that’s an unbelievable combination for a kid nowadays.”

— Steve Pikiell

“For Jameel, whether he’s well, sick or tired, he plays really well,” his mother said. “He just loves the sport.”

At Stony Brook, he enjoyed much of the same success.

Warney graduated with more victories than any player in school history, and is the school’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, blocks and games played. The Associated Press All-American Honorable Mention also broke Stony Brook records for points in a season and in a single game when he scored 43 against the University of Vermont March 12.

Among all the records, Warney was also named American East Player and Defensive Player of the Year after leading the Seawolves to the American East Championship title and the first NCAA postseason berth in school history. He recorded 23 points and 15 rebounds in the first round of the tournament against the University of Kentucky on March 17, though the team fell 85-57.

“I saw something in him early on and I was able to help him bring that talent and ability out of him,” Pikiell said. “Mix that in with his hard work, and that’s how he’s gotten to the point he’s at. I know he can play at the NBA level. He has a skill set that everyone could use. He has a great motor, he’s a terrific rebounder, he has great hands, he’s a great passer, he has a tremendous physical ability and he’s an unselfish player. He has a great mind for the game of basketball, and those are attributes that bode well for him to be able to continue to play at the next level.”

Jameel Warney carries a net around his neck after the Stony Brook University men's basketball team won the America East championship. Photo from SBU
Jameel Warney carries a net around his neck after the Stony Brook University men’s basketball team won the America East championship. Photo from SBU

For Denise Warney though, it’s more than just her son’s accolades and titles. It’s about how proud she is of how far her son has come not just in the sport, but as a person. When she watches him, she can’t help but smile.

“The game for the NCAA berth, I just watch that game over and over again because it amazes me that he’s turned out to be such a great basketball player,” she said.

She is especially amazing watching him dunk the ball, because for her, it brings back a decade-old memory.

“When he was little, I remember him saying, ‘Mommy, I want a trampoline.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘I want to put it next to the basketball hoop so I can dunk,’” she said. “We laughed about it because now when I see him dunk a ball, I go all the way back to when he was 10 years old. I get this rush watching him, I’m overcome with this emotion, and I just keep becoming prouder and prouder of him.”

Warney and his mother both appreciate those who have helped him reach such heights thus far in his career.

“The years of improving mentally and physically, being mature and proving my stuff on the court with Stony Brook after high school — I’ve learned so much,” he said. “I feel like a lot of the people I’ve come across over my years of playing basketball have influenced my life. My coaches in high school, my mom, college coaches, the rest of my family and my close friends, I’m doing this all for them because they’ve been with me through the struggles and through the highs. I’m happy to have such a nice support system with me.”

He’s influenced the lives of others as well, as young children run around Stony Brook donning his name and number on their jerseys, looking up to the professional athlete who is continuing to put in the work as he climbs his ladder toward his ultimate goal of making a roster.

“He’s humble for a player as talented as he is,” Pikiell said. “He’s humble and he’s hardworking. I think that’s an unbelievable combination for a kid nowadays. That enabled him to get better and help us do things that no Stony Brook team has ever done, I think he can make a team and stay for a long time. I think his best basketball is ahead of him.”

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Dream season ends with coaching change

Steve Pikiell had high hopes for this season, and full confidence that this would be a special year and the Stony Brook men’s basketball head coach was right — the Seawolves made it all the way to the NCAA tournament for the first time as a Division I team. And even though they suffered a first-round elimination, members of the team and its fans said they would remember the experience as one of great success.

“I knew it would happen — you’ve got to have a special group,” said Pikiell.

He recognized the talent in his seniors, and the group that came together over four years to break through to the Round of 64 in the NCAA tournament.

Just a few years ago, it was difficult to fill Pritchard Gymnasium with 1,000 people. This season, the now-named Island Federal Credit Union Arena sold out. Some of those dedicated fans stuck by the team, in good times and bad.

Those were the fans who sat on the steps in front of the arena after their loss, anxiously waiting for their history-making America East conference champions to arrive. Despite the plane landing late, devotees waited for one last warm welcome, and honored the Seawolves who brought them so much joy this season with chants of “S-B-U.”

“We’ve looked forward to this for many, many years, so it’s a great success,” said Sam DiCanio II, of Stony Brook, who has been watching the team since his 9-year-old son was in the womb. “It was a tough draw, Kentucky is a tough team, but we showed that we’re on the right path.”

No. 13 Stony Brook may have fallen, 85-57, to No. 4-seeded University of Kentucky last Thursday night in a game shown on CBS TV, but fans didn’t drop them.

“[Playing against] Kentucky was good for us for the experience and for all the players and recruits to see us with all of our pros,” DiCanio’s young son said. “The excitement in that final home game was amazing.”

Followers felt the stadium rocking.

“No one was sitting,” said Maureen Zajac, a graduate of Stony Brook who lives in Shoreham with her 11–year-old son Anthony.

The two have been season ticket holders for two years now, and Zajac said she was overcome with emotion because of how far the team has come.

“Every day you read the newspaper and you cry. It’s fantastic. We’re so proud of them,” she said, holding up a banner. “We wrote we’re so proud because we’ve got to celebrate. They did an amazing job this year. The boys are amazing. They’re excellent role models.”

The class act trio of seniors waved hello to fans as they exited the bus, and waved goodbye to the end of a historic run — and the end of their Seawolves careers.

Warney, a three-time America East Player of the Year who scored a career-high 43 points in his last home game of his college career and 23 points and 15 rebounds in the Round of 64 contest, said he appreciates those fans who stuck around not just on that March 18 evening, but over the last four years.

“It was a long, hard season,” Warney said. “The heartbreaks, the adversity and the success. The community has been behind us for the last four years and they’ve been through a lot of heartbreaks, too, and everyone has just come back stronger and more supportive and it keeps us balanced. They make Stony Brook a hard place to play at.”

But the team, and especially Warney, who accounted for his 21st double-double of the season and 60th of his career, is what put Stony Brook on the map.

“Carson [Puriefoy] is fast, he has a good hang and an amazing shot, and Warney blocks everyone’s shots,” Anthony Zajac said.

Puriefoy added 10 points, and Rayshaun McGrew tied a career-high three steals. Ahmad Walker, a junior, finished with eight rebounds and three assists.

The team became an object that students, family members and community members could rally around.

“This experience brought back a lot of memories,” said Ronald Gerry. Like the times he’d go to University of Pennsylvania to be with his daughter, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), and watch games: “We meet a lot of our friends, my wife Pam and I, and we all cheer together and talk. It’s a weekly outing.”

For Warney, who was named Tuesday Eastern College Athletic Conference Division I Player of the Year, the experience was also great to be a part of.

“It was a lot of exposure,” he said of being on that court in Des Moines, Iowa. “I came in an 18-year-old kid not knowing anything and being homesick every day, to trying to finally achieve what we’ve been working for. I am grateful to be a part of it.”

Pikiell said the team would be back next year with players in the program who continue to work hard.

“We’re excited about the future, too,” he said.

But Pikiell won’t be there to witness the hard work pay off firsthand. In a shock announcment just days after the Seawolves’ NCAA tournament appearance, the Stony Brook resident signed a five-year deal with a starting annual salary of $1.4 million to head the program at Rutgers University.

He will end his time with Stony Brook alongside his senior athletes.

Warney finished his illustrious career with 2,132 points, 1,275 rebounds and 276 blocks. Puriefoy ended his with 1,572 points, ranking him fourth all-time in Division I program history. And McGrew will go down in Stony Brook history as the first Seawolf to score a basket in the Division I tournament. Stony Brook’s senior class finished with a 97-38 record, the winningest class in school history.

“We started this journey in Germany on a European trip and we ended it in Iowa,” Pikiell said. “It was an exciting year, it was a hard year and there’s a lot of terrific moments — 18 wins in a row, winning the league, playing a home game here for the championship, cutting the nets down — so a lot of good memories.”

Warney said some of those good memories wouldn’t have happened without the staff and his teammates, but especially his coach.

“He’s one of the best coaches in the conference,” Warney said. “He obviously knows what he’s doing. Pikiell always said it’s hard to make history, and we finally did it. We were motivated. We played together and we found a formula to win.”

“[Playing against] Kentucky was good for us for the experience and for all the players and recruits to see us with all of our pros,” said Stony Brook resident Sam Dicanio III. “The excitement in that final home game was amazing.”

Followers felt the stadium rocking.

“No one was sitting,” said Maureen Zajac, a graduate of Stony Brook who lives in Shoreham with her 11–year-old-son Anthony.

The two have been season ticket holders for two years now, and Zajac said she was overcome with emotion because of how far the team has come.

“Every day you read the newspaper and you cry. It’s fantastic. We’re so proud of them,” she said, holding up a banner. “We wrote we’re so proud because we’ve got to celebrate. They did an amazing job this year. The boys are amazing. They’re excellent role models.”

The class act trio of seniors waved hello to fans as they exited the bus, and waved goodbye to the end of a historic run, and the end of their Seawolves careers.

Warney, an America East Player of the Year who scored a career-high 43 points in his last home game of his college career and 23 points and 15 rebounds in the Round of 64 contest, said he appreciates those fans who stuck around not just on that March 18 evening, but over the last four years.

“It was a long, hard season,” Warney said. “The heartbreaks, the adversity and the success. The community has been behind us for the last four years and they’ve been through a lot of heartbreaks, too, and everyone has just come back stronger and more supportive and it keeps us balanced. They make Stony Brook a hard place to play at.”

But the team, and especially Warney, who accounted for his 21st double-double of the season and 60th of his career, is what put Stony Brook on the map.

“Carson is fast, he has a good hang and an amazing shot, and Warney blocks everyone’s shots,” Anthony Zajac said.

Carson Puriefoy added 10 points, and Rayshaun McGrew tied a career-high three steals. Ahmad Walker, a junior, finished with eight rebounds and three assists.

The team became an object that students, family members and community members could rally around.

“This experience brought back a lot of memories,” said Ronald Gerry. Like the times he’d go to University of Pennsylvania to be with his daughter, Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket), and watch games. “We meet a lot of our friends, my wife Pam and I, and we all cheer together and talk. It’s a weekly outing.”

For Warney, the experience was also great to be a part of.

“It was a lot of exposure,” he said of being on that court in Des Moines, Iowa. “I came in an 18-year-old kid not knowing anything and bring homesick every day, to trying to finally achieve what we’ve been working for. I am grateful to be a part of it.”

Pikiell said the team would be back next year with players in the program who continue to work hard.

“We’re excited about the future, too,” he said.

But Pikiell won’t be there to witness the hard work pay off first hand. Just days after Stony Brook’s first tournament appearance, the Stony Brook resident signed a five-year deal with an annual contract salary of $1.6 million to head the program at Rutgers University.

He will end his time with Stony Brook alongside his senior athletes.

Warney finished his illustrious career with 2,132 points, 1,273 rebounds and 276 blocks. Puriefoy ended his with 1,572 points, ranking him fourth all-time in Division I program history. And McGrew will go down in Stony Brook history as the first Seawolf to score a basket in the Division I Tournament. Stony Brook’s senior class finished with a 97-38 record, the winningest class in school history.

“We started this journey in Germany on a European trip and we ended it in Iowa,” Pikiell said. “It was an exciting year, it was a hard year and there’s a lot of terrific moments — 18 wins in a row, winning the league, playing a home game here for the championship, cutting the nets down — so a lot of good memories.”

Warney said some of those good memories wouldn’t have happened without the staff and his teammates, but especially, his coach.

“He’s one of the best coaches in the conference,” Warney said. “He obviously knows what he’s doing. Pikiell always said it’s hard to make history, and we finally did it. We were motivated. We played together and we found a formula to win.”

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The Stony Brook men’s basketball team walks out to a red carpet before departing for Des Moines, Iowa. Photo by Desirée Keegan

After earning its first trip to the NCAA as a Division I team, it was only fitting for the Stony Brook men’s basketball team to have a proper send-off.

Jameel Warney reaches for the rim against Vermont. Photo by Robert O'Rourk
Jameel Warney reaches for the rim against Vermont. Photo by Robert O’Rourk

Fans young and old came out donning the Seawolves’ red and white, waving pom-poms and throwing up homemade banners and posters to show support for their favorite college basketball team.

“It’s great for the school and great for the community and great for exposure,” senior Stony Brook standout Jameel Warney said. “You play to win. You play for admiration from the fans. We love the community and it’s great to be here. We’re coming out to win. We’re going to work out hardest and give it our all.”

Warney, just days prior, tallied a career-high 43 points in the Seawolves’ 80-74 victory over The University of Vermont in the America East Championship at the sold-out Island Federal Credit Union Arena.

Warney was a remarkable 18-for-22 from the field to go with a 7-for-10 showing from the free-throw line. The Seawolves senior added 10 rebounds and four blocks in his final home game at Stony Brook. Warney’s third-consecutive double-double gave him 59 for his Seawolves career. He tallied 25 of his 43 points in the second half. The 43-point, career-best performance eclipses his 36-point outing against the University of Hartford on Feb. 8. It is also the highest total in the Division I era by any Seawolves player.

The America East finals crowd shows its Stony Brook support. Photo by Robert O'Rourk
The America East finals crowd shows its Stony Brook support. Photo by Robert O’Rourk

Senior Carson “Trey” Puriefoy added 23 points to help secure the win. Puriefoy played all 40 minutes and showed how he got his nickname, draining all five of Stony Brook’s 3-pointers. He notched 16 of his 23 points in the second half, and was 8-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Puriefoy, who moved within 28 points for third on the Division I scoring list with 1,562 points as of Saturday, took to the fans to tell them how lucky the team is to have their support.

“We want to thank everyone for coming out,” he said. “We made history. You guys have been there for us all season long, we love everybody and we’re going to go to the dance and make history.”

Head coach Steve Pikiell, who is in his 11th season with the Seawolves, said he’s honored to finally get his team to the dance, and tried to break the ice as he joked about the historic No. 4-seeded University of Kentucky that his No. 13 team will be taking on Thursday at 9:40 p.m.

Jameel Warney and Carson Puriefoy embrace one another after topping Vermont for the America East Championship title and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Photo by Robert O'Rourk
Jameel Warney and Carson Puriefoy embrace one another after topping Vermont for the America East Championship win. Photo by Robert O’Rourk

“We’re going to represent this great university and this great area the right way on Thursday night when we play a small team out there in Kentucky,” he said, laughing. “I think they have a basketball program out there.”

But on a more serious note, the coach said he appreciated all the support he’s received throughout the years, and how hard his team has worked to get to the position it’s in now.

“So many good people have helped us get to this place,” he said. “This team did something that no team in Stony Brook history did. It’s hard to make history, and they got through every obstacle this year and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

According to Pikiell, there are 358 teams that start off the season wanting to be in the NCAA tournament, and just 64 get a chance to punch a ticket to the first round.

“We did it,” Pikiell said. “We broke through.”

The team filed out to a red carpet, high-fiving the fans that cheered as they swarmed around the 14-man roster as it boarded the bus to begin the long trip to Iowa.

Carson Puriefoy drives around an opponent. Photo by Robert O'Rourk
Carson Puriefoy drives around an opponent. Photo by Robert O’Rourk

“They want to feel your energy in Des Moines, Iowa, so bring it on Thursday,” Stony Brook athletic director Shawn Heilbron said. “This team is a special team and you’re going to see some special things on Thursday night.”

The berth is the first for Stony Brook (26-6) in its Division I history. The Seawolves, known then as the Patriots, last made the NCAA tournament in 1991 as a member of Division III. Stony Brook and Kentucky faced each other in 2007, and the Wildcats held off the Seawolves, 62-52.

The game Thursday will be televised on CBS, and the winner will face Indiana University or The University of Tennessee Chattanooga in the second round.

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Warney tallies career-high 43 points in America East Championships victory

Fans celebrate along with the Stony Brook University men's basketball team after the Seawolves claimed the American East Championship title and its first NCAA Division I appearance at the Island Federal Credit Union Arena on March 12. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University men's basketball standout Jameel Warney speaks to reporters with the net draped around his neck after his team earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University
Stony Brook University men’s basketball standout Jameel Warney speaks to reporters with the net draped around his neck after his team earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

Senior Jameel Warney tallied a career-high 43 points and senior Carson Puriefoy added 23 to help secure the Stony Brook men’s basketball team’s first trip to the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship with an 80-74 victory over the University of Vermont in the America East Championship at a raucous, sold-out Island Federal Credit Union Arena.

Stony Brook (26-6) erased a 15-point second-half deficit to storm back and punch its ticket to the field of 68, which will be fully announced Sunday at 5:30 p.m. on CBS. Stony Brook will host an NCAA tournament selection show event Sunday at Island Federal Credit Union Arena.

Junior Lucas Woodhouse dished out eight assists for the Seawolves, who avenged their only home defeat of the season and closed out their home slate 15-1, before hitting the road next week for the NCAA tournament.

Trae Bell-Haynes had 17 points to lead Vermont (21-13), which had three players in double-figures with 11 points from Ernie Duncan and 10 from Cam Ward.
Vermont led 48-33 with 15:17 remaining before a 24-10 Stony Brook run cut the deficit to 58-57 with 7:48 to go on a Woodhouse jumper. The Seawolves took a 62-61 lead with 5:59 remaining and the teams traded baskets for the next two-and-a-half minutes before a free throw by junior Ahmad Walker with 3:14 to go gave the Seawolves a lead they would not relinquish.

Warney was a remarkable 18-for-22 from the field in the victory to go with a 7-for-10 showing from the free-throw line. The Seawolves senior added 10 rebounds and four blocks in his final home game at Stony Brook. Warney’s third-consecutive double-double gave him 59 for his Seawolves career. He tallied 25 of his 43 points in the second half.

The Stony Brook University men's basketball team huddles together. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University
The Stony Brook University men’s basketball team huddles together. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

The 43-point, career-best performance for Warney eclipses a 36-point outing against the University of Hartford on Feb. 8. It is also the highest total in the Division I era by any Seawolves player. The last 40-point output by a Seawolves player was Emeka Smith’s 49-point performance against Lehman College on Dec. 7, 1991.

Puriefoy, who notched 16 of his 23 points in the second half, drained all five of Stony Brook’s 3-point makes and was 8-for-10 from the charity stripe. He added four assists and two of Stony Brook’s seven steals. Puriefoy played all 40 minutes in a regulation game for the third time this season. Puriefoy moved within 28 points of D.J. Munir (2000-04) for third on the Division I scoring list. He has 1,562 points through Saturday.

The 26th victory of the season set a new Division I program record.

The Stony Brook men’s basketball team will play the University of Kentucky in the Round of 64, the NCAA Selection Committee announced Sunday evening.

The Seawolves, seeded 13th, will face No. 4 Kentucky Thursday at 9:40 p.m. ET on CBS.  Jim Nantz, Grant Hill, Bill Raftery and Tracy Wolfson will broadcast the game. Stony Brook will be making its first appearance in the Division I Tournament. The Seawolves, known then as the Patriots, last made the NCAA Tournament in 1991 as a member of Division III.

The Stony Brook University men's basketball team topped the University of Vermont to claim the America East Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University
The Stony Brook University men’s basketball team topped the University of Vermont to claim the America East Championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

“We are going to play a historic program — one of the best programs in college basketball — with a Hall of Fame coach and first round draft picks all over the place,” Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell said. “This is a great opportunity for our guys to go and continue their season and play one of the best teams in the country.”

Kentucky advanced to its 55th NCAA Tournament with a victory over Texas A&M University in the Southeastern Conference Championship game. The two squads faced each other in 2007, and the Wildcats held off the Seawolves, 62-52.

The winner of Thursday’s game will face Indiana University or the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the second round.