DES MOINES, IOWA — We know Stony Brook has the confidence to beat Kentucky on Thursday night. We know John Calipari agrees it can happen. We know what to keep an eye on after the game tips off.
One thing we know more than anything else: If Stony Brook takes down Kentucky, it will need a big performance from Jameel Warney.
The more you know about Warney, the more likely it seems that the aforementioned “if” could come to fruition.
SEC Country gathered intelligence on the Seawolves star and pieced together an on-and-off-the-court scouting report for Big Blue Nation.
So, here’s everything you need to know about Jameel Warney:
His trophy case is stacked.
The New Jersey native is one of the most decorated mid-major players in college basketball history. Warney has won three straight America East Player of the Year awards and collected Freshman of the Year before that. He also has two straight Defensive Player of the Year trophies.
His stats are scary.
Warney became just the 110th player in Division I history to collect 2,000 career points and 1,000 career rebounds earlier this year. He led the entire NCAA in rebounds (409) and double-doubles (24) last season, and broke his own school single-season scoring record with 589 points this year. Last month, he put together a monster 27-point, 23-rebound night against UMBC, and he scored 36 on 16-for-18 shooting against Hartford. To give you an idea of his consistency: He led the Seawolves in points, field-goal percentage and blocks… as a freshman three seasons ago.
He’s playing the best basketball of his career right now.
Saturday’s America East championship featured a 15-point comeback from Warney and the Seawolves. The senior poured in a career-high 43 points while snaring 10 rebounds in the victory over Vermont.
His size is misleading.
We’re not saying 6-foot-8 is small, by any means, but Warney doesn’t exactly lose much ground to taller opponents thanks to his 7-foot-2 wingspan. Oh, and the 260 pounds he carries around are mostly muscle.
There’s a “boulder” on his shoulder.
Asked about the chip on Stony Brook’s shoulder this week, Warney replied, “It’s a boulder. I feel like every day, we keep on proving some people wrong.” That drive has something to do with the fact that — before winning this past weekend to earn their first-ever NCAA tournament appearance — the Seawolves lost four of the five most recent conference title games (Stony Brook lost in the semifinals in 2013).
He nearly played in the SEC.
Warney’s high school coach, Dave Boff, said the former Roselle Catholic (N.J.) star had Tennessee on his final college list, which also featured Stony Brook, Rider and Iowa.
Warney’s college decision directly affected Kentucky.
One of the Wildcats’ starters transferred to Roselle Catholic a few years after Warney put it on the map. “If Jameel Warney doesn’t come to Roselle Catholic and make us a state power and put us on the national stage, I don’t think Isaiah Briscoe would’ve ever come to Roselle Catholic,” Boff said. “He probably didn’t even know Roselle Catholic existed, even though we’re only two miles from his house.”
Briscoe gave Calipari a brief scouting report on Sunday.
“He’s a beast.”
Calipari was already aware.
The Wildcats coach watched Stony Brook’s come-from-behind victory on Saturday and then texted Boff: “Wow. That kid seems pretty tough.”
Warney’s love of food dragged him into campus politics at Stony Brook.
“The student union stopped serving gyros,” Boff said. “He went crazy. He’s got so much pull at the school that they now only serve gyros on gamedays because he had to eat one for lunch.” The coach later added: “He lives and dies basketball, but he’s always wondering where the next meal is coming from.”
Don’t expect him to toss up any deep shots.
Warney has never attempted a 3-pointer at the college level, and never hucked one up in high school, either. “He’s just a grind-it-out, back-to-the-basket post player,” Boff said. “There’s very few of those guys left in college.”
Kentucky’s post players will have bruises on Friday morning.
“Anything he’s gonna do, it’s gonna be power,” Boff said. “You will not see a whole lot of fading away from him or anything like that. He’s gonna catch it low. He scores with his positioning as much as he does with any particular move.”
It’s not all about brute force, though.
“The announcers, when they’re doing his games, people are always talking about how his hands and feet are maybe the best of any big man in the country,” Boff said. “He’s gonna catch everything and he’s gonna make power plays at the rim.”
There’s one thing he can’t stop.
That would be the crazy number of texts and calls on his phone after Stony Brook earned a No. 13 seed Sunday. “I returned as much as I could,” Warney said. “I mean, it gets a little tiring. If I did all of it, it would probably take a couple of hours.”
Kentucky-Stony Brook tips off Thursday night at 9:40 p.m. ET (CBS).