FIBA AmeriCup MVP Jameel Warney said it was an honor to just be part of Team USA. But he did much more than that, helping Team USA defeat Argentina to win the Gold Medal as the squad’s go-to player.
“Just to wear those three letters, having a tremendous pride for your country,” said Warney, who played for the G League’s Texas Legends this past season. “It was more than I could have dreamed of with my performance and the team.”
Although Team USA went an undefeated 5-0 in the tournament, it didn’t come easy in the Gold Medal Game. The Americans trailed Argentina – the host country – by as many as 20 points in the third quarter.
“We were down 20 in a hostile environment, and it’s your fifth game in seven days,” Warney said. “We could have easily packed it in and just got ready to go home.”
But they didn’t. They erased the deficit and took the lead with 5:59 left in the fourth quarter. When it was all said and done, Team USA had mounted a 48-24 run in the final 16:19 to complete the comeback.
“It showed our real characters,” said Warney. “We kept fighting and cut the lead down, and then kind of took over the game and ran with the momentum.”
Warney finished with a team-high 21 points and seven rebounds in the game. He came off the bench throughout the tournament, but made the most of his minutes on the floor. He averaged 12.8 points and 8.6 rebounds.
The team was coached by former NBA head coach and current analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who Warney said he learned many valuable lessons from in South America.
“You can see why he’s one of the most respected coaches in NBA history,” said Warney. “He demands a lot out of you and will tell you the truth. If you’re playing bad, he’ll tell you, but it’s all about how you react to it. It was a great honor for me to play under him during those three weeks.”
C.J. Williams, who was teammates with Warney this past season on the Legends, said he hopes to see Warney propel this experience into an NBA contract.
“I really hope to see all of us play professionally. I feel like we have all earned our chance to get an opportunity,” said Williams. “Seeing the growth of (Warney’s) game from when I met him first in Mavs’ camp to now and to see him succeed, I’m just really excited and happy for him.”
That is the goal for Warney. He said he just needs to keep putting in the work and showing teams what he can do both on and off the floor.
“It’s my goal to make it to the NBA one day. It’s all about how you capitalize off this momentum right here,” said Warney. “I believe I’m a winner, and teams want those in their locker room, great locker room guys. I just need to continue to work hard on my skills and I’ll be there sooner or later.”