Stony Brook senior Jameel Warney earned another in the never ending list of honors he is about to receive over the next two months: this time it was earning a spot as a finalist for the Karl Malone Award.
The award, founded last season to be given to the nation’s best power forward, lists the 6’8” senior as one of the 10 best candidates for the award. Only Warney, Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Shawn Long come from a non-power conference school.
“All you can think about is Karl Malone is John Stockton pick and roll, him being one of the top 10 players ever in history,” Warney said is what he remembers from Malone’s career, which spanned 19 seasons ending in 2004.
Before the senior passed Bryan Dougher’s scoring record in the school’s Division I program history, the current director of basketball operations said he remembered meeting Warney as a bad 5th grader.
“It was the last sport I tried,” Warney said. “I tried baseball, wrestling, football I was bad at all of them, so I felt like I had to be good at basketball or just I’m not going to be an athlete. So just keep on trying at basketball, I always loved it as a kid, just never played it, like organized, a lot.”
The Plainfield, N.J. native remembers those early days, when about a decade ago, he was hardly a nominee for anything.
“I was terrible, I know I was terrible,” Warney said of his play early on. “Two left feet. I couldn’t catch the ball. I used to come in and pick up four fouls in the game… I don’t know how I used to do that, I used to run up and down the court one time and be exhausted and be done for the rest of the game. I think I came a long way.”
On Monday night Warney notched a career-high 36 points in Stony Brook’s win over Hartford, their 16th straight as they continue the nation’s longest win streak. Against the Hawks he made 16 of his 18 two-point field goals, the most by any player since 2010.
The senior forward said that he formed his game around many of the traditional big men he followed growing up, but started to see a spurt through his sophomore year of high school.
“I try to form my game, like all the good big men, but as you see I didn’t get the height of it,” Warney said referring to his 6’8” size. “So you have to start looking at smaller big men like DeJuan Blair, Malik Rose and the old type of like power forwards who have made a good living in the league.”
Since then he has been dominant winning America East Rookie of the Year as a sophomore and in one month will likely receive his third Player of the Year award.
“His improvements are off the charts from freshman year to now,” head coach Steve Pikiell said. “Every now and then I have to sit back and really appreciate how far he’s come and how much he’s improved every year in leadership, practice, games.”
Warney leads all America East players with 19.0 ppg and 10.7 rpg, but most of all the senior always appears to be having fun on the floor. Whether it is reaching for a rebound, spinning to the basket, there are few times when the game isn’t fun for the senior.
“I feel like you got to have fun to play the sport you love,” Warney said. “If you’re having fun you play better, you’re more looser, your teammates follow you, so if I’m all having fun the other 13 people on the team will have fun. It’s just a great feeling just having fun in the game day in and day out.”
All that fun could lead to a bright future with NBA scouts doing their homework in evaluating Warney. The Stony Brook senior will likely be a First Team All-Met player to go with several other individual accolades. He’ll find out in a month whether or not he is one of the five finalists presented to Malone for the Karl Malone Award. However until then, it is about chasing the one goal that has eluded him.
“I think I’ve found a good way to just put it aside, we have this big chip on our shoulders to just win one award as a whole team,” Warney said. “We want that one award, so it doesn’t matter really which awards we get as a team or me personally. We just want that one big award at the end of the year.”
Ryan Restivo wrote the America East conference preview for the 2015-16 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook. He covers the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the America East conference among others for Big Apple Buckets. You can follow Ryan on Twitter @ryanarestivo or contact Ryan at rrestivo[at]nycbuckets.com.