By JR Parachini For sidelinechatter.comJameel Warney could have taken his basketball skills to a much bigger school, much farther away.
Instead, the Roselle Catholic senior decided on a campus more to his liking and closer to home.
On Friday one of New Jersey's top big men gave a verbal commitment to continue playing at Division 1 Stony Brook. He will sign his scholarship letter-of-intent in November.
"All things considered it just seemed like a perfect fit for me," said the 6-7, 215 pound Warney, who is 51 points away from becoming Roselle Catholic's all-time leading scorer, boys' and girls' included.
Warney, a Plainfield resident, narrowed his decision to Stony Brook and Rider.
"At Stony Brook I felt the most comfortable, I was drawn to the coaches and I feel that I can make a big impact there right away," said Warney, who first visited the Long Island school in May and then again in late June and early August when he came back from playing in the Nationals in Florida. "The coaches love their jobs, I like the skill level and the students graduate. I'll play any position they want me to play."
Warney, who will turn 18 in the middle of basketball season on Jan. 31, originally set a timetable of Sept. 1 to make his verbal commitment by.
"I just couldn't wait anymore," said Warney, who plans to study sports management at Stony Brook. "Now I can just focus on education and basketball."
Stony Brook head coach Steve Pikiell, a former UConn standout player for Jim Calhoun, has already benefitted greatly from a star player from Union County. The Seawolves are guided by senior guard Bryan Dougher, who paced the team in scoring last year, earning America East Conference honors.
Another Scotch Plains standout, Charles Oliver, just graduated from Scotch Plains and will be playing at Rider.
"Rider was the first school to offer me a scholarship, but I waited it out before I gave them a commitment," Warney said. "I waited to see if another school caught my eye and that school was Stony Brook."
Warney said that other schools to offer scholarships included Drexel, Iowa, UNC-Charlotte, St. Bonaventure and Manhattan.
"In July a lot of schools came in, Iowa, places like that," Roselle Catholic head coach Dave Boff said. "Jameel thought about them, but decided to got to a school that he felt comfortable at and could be happy there for four years. He didn't get swayed by the big schools that came in late."
Warney emerged as one of the top juniors in the state this past season and finished the year with 1,288 career points. The school record is 1,338, which was set by 2010 graduate Allison Skrec, who helped lead the Lions to consecutive Union County Tournament championships in 2009 and 2010.
Roselle Catholic's boys' squad made the UCT semifinals this past season for the first time since the 1990s.
"We think we have a good chance of winning it this year," Warney said. "We're looking to do something special."
Last season, Warney averaged 21 points, 16.5 rebounds and three blocks and produced two triple-doubles. He was also second on the team in assists.
“That’s amazing for a center to be second in assists,” said Boff, who will be entering his fifth season at the helm of the Lions.
Warney scored a game-high 18 points in leading Roselle Catholic past visiting Governor Livingston 42-34 in the game that decided the Union County Conference’s Mountain Division championship. He also produced 20 points and 16 rebounds in RC’s 63-50 setback to eventual four-peat champion St. Patrick in the UCT semifinals at Rahway.
“I think he was the most dominant defensive player in the county,” Boff said. “Against St. Patrick he was our anchor on offense and defense. He was big in all of our UCT games and had over 20 points and 15 rebounds in our last three UCT games.”
Roselle Catholic went 22-8 and won a division title for the second straight season.
When Warney first stepped through the doors at Roselle Catholic three years ago he set goals that he was able to achieve.
"It took a lot of hard work," Warney said. "My coaches helped me a lot."
"He put a lot of stock in relationship with coaches and that's why he chose Stony Brook," Boff said. "He went with what he thought was his best choice.
"I am very proud of him and all of his hard work paid off. I told him that he would graduate as a scholarship player. We're all really, really proud of him."