Big Guard: A Look at Jameel Warney's Game and Growth
This offseason saw the dawning of a new era with the Westchester Knicks 2018-19 leading scorer Jameel Warney. While participating in summer leagues and some pro-runs, Warney adopted the moniker 'big guard' which captures the essence of the player he hopes to continue to be as he embarks on his next journey with the Seoul SK Knights of the Korean Basketball League.
On Monday, July 29 at Columbia University, Jameel Warney's Pro City team, Hardwork Boyz, endured a convincing setback against R2K/OOH-WAY where Warney barely got any touches. This was not only odd for him but bizarre for anyone who has followed the New Jersey product in recent years.
"That was my worst game ever!" Warney said with a wry smile quickly followed by a chuckle after Monday's loss.
'Ever' might have been a stretch but it was the first time, in a long time, the 6'7 self-acclaimed 'big guard' wasn't the focal point of the offense and didn't have a double-double to show for it.
In fact, in his most recent stint with the Westchester Knicks, the official NBA G League affiliate of the New York Knicks, Warney closed out the regular season scoring double-figures 24 straight times missing the 10-point benchmark only twice.
Furthermore, he recorded nine double-doubles, a pair of 30-point games and credited 16 20-point performances in just the second half of the 2018-19 season.
So simpler put, Monday's game was a game so few and far between for Warney.
Nike's Pro City NYC league is a widely popular and organized summer league mirroring a street style of play for NBA vets, current NBA guys, those on the brink of cracking the Association, international talent and even some college standouts. It gives them the opportunity to play a freer and more laidback style of basketball-one that isn't bogged down in x's and o's, sets and well... media timeouts.
However, one can argue that it is those elements that fuel Warney's exceptional game in the other 10 months-or at the very least, it could argue why Warney was not the Warney his alma mater Stony Brook aka Seawolf Country, dubs the GOAT.
But it is where the 'big guard' doppelgänger lives.
'Big guard' is Warney's alter-persona custom fitted for his summer play. Otherwise, he is showered with criticism of being an undersized big lacking an outside shot to the domestic professional basketball world.
"I don't pass the look test," Warney said. "I'm 6'7, 6'8 so I if don't play defense, and I'm only scoring in the post, that's not enough to keep me on the court. I have to be able to do everything. I have to rebound, play tough, sacrifice my body on defense, score and compete."
On January 8, the Knicks traded for Warney, after appearing in 22 games for the Texas Legends, the official NBA G League affiliate of the Dallas Mavericks. At the time of the transaction, Warney was averaging 13.7 points on 43-percent shooting (seventh-best on the team) and 6.8 rebounds (third-best on the team).
Four games into his Westchester career, Warney was averaging a team-high 20.5 points on 57.8-percent shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists.
"He's been a real force on the interior, which obviously sets up a lot of things," then-Westchester head coach Mike Miller said following a 105-96 win over Delaware (1/19). "I think we're still evolving in all the different things that he'll be able to do. But just because he comes with that force and he gives us different options of things to do. He's really done a nice job defensively with the different assignments that he's had too."
A few months down the road and his game continued to tread upward.
Crafty footwork and shifty body control are skills Warney has perfected to a fault, skills that enable him to thrive on the low block despite being about four inches shorter than the average NBA center (6'11). Granted the NBA G League is a developmental conduit to the NBA and those occupying space closest to the basket are arguably a better matchup, Warney still finds a way to impose his will impeccably having been the Knicks' leading scorer and one of the top rebounders and assist guys on the team.
"I can score in different ways," Warney continued. "Obviously, I'm 6'8 on a good day so most teams think the best way to guard me is with a big at 6'11. I've been blessed with the strength to not allow those types of players to have that much of an effect on me. In doing so, I have to be versatile in how I score with the use of floaters, my post-game and being more of a shooter which has improved with my training."
Though his ever-changing height, varying from 6'6 to 6'8, bears some semblance to an NBA guard, having a respected shooter's touch is something Warney needs locked in his arsenal. Equipped with this, his big guard guise could be indomitable and perhaps transcend any doubt from NBA scouts.
"People think that I'm chubby or stocky, but I think I'm pretty mobile for my size," Warney continued. "People think scoring in the post is the only thing that I can do. But I proved this year and last year that I can stretch the defense out."
He's not lying.
Warney only shot worse than 50-percent five times as a Knick. From distance, Warney showed vast aggression knocking down 40 triples, almost doubling his next highest tally at 22 two seasons ago. He attempted 2.4 threes a game (31.1-percent) in Westchester which bested all but one big on the team. Playing two more games than him, two-way player Isaiah Hicks averaged 2.5 attempts.
Warney does most of his damage in the paint & consistently has shown to be one of the best post players in the G League. As a player who shot 0 threes at Stony Brook, he has worked on his perimeter game in the GL. He shot 31.1 with Westchester, which is 4% better than with Texas pic.twitter.com/yCtcdRiIyV
- Chris Priczak (@chrispriczak) March 25, 2019
But put shooting aside and Warney still possesses other guard-esque competencies, many of which were developed as a result of enduring mismatches his entire career.
Warney's vision and knowingness of where his teammates (and defenders) are on the floor coupled with the constant double-team and triple-teams he endures has made him an elite passer.
When Westchester was missing its leading point guard, two-way player Kadeem Allen, who was otherwise occupying his time with the New York Knicks, Warney became the second-leader in assists (4.9 apg). By the end of the season, he finished third on the team with at least 25 games played (3.4 apg).
Now, fast-forward back to this summer and Warney's Pro City team ended their playoff dreams early with a semifinal's loss to Dyckman/Team Kemba. This not only marked the end of summer hoops, but it too marked the end of the offseason for many guys like Warney who will be heading overseas to continue their playing careers.
Though NBA training camp starts late September, some international clubs start up mid to late August. Now, Warney will refocus his attention to his eight-month playing season with the Seoul SK Knights of the Korean Basketball League.
"I want to be a leader there and win a championship," Warney mentioned. "I want to be the best player in the [Korean] league and play more freely. I want to be the best player that I can be."
Warney understands that he has a four to five-year window at 25 years of age, and maybe a return back to the states is in the cards for him. Another NBA opportunity would be the goal for the former Dallas Maverick but should he return without an NBA deal on the table, the Westchester Knicks retain his rights.
"Don't worry the big guard is improving every day," Warney added with a chuckle. "I'm going to continue to expand my game and be an all-around player."
Good luck big guard.
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