College Coach A.J. Wynder Ponders Jamail Stanley’s Pro Potential

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After his basketball journey started out in the Bronx, New York in high school, Jamail Stanley didn’t go far to start his collegiate career. He joined Nassau Community College where he would have great success on the court. While A.J. Wynder, head coach of the Nassau Lions, didn’t see the Syracuse native until after he enrolled, Wynder knew he had a special talent on his squad.

Coach Wynder, who has coached at Nassau Community College since 1997, spoke to about the local talent’s underrated defense, the potential he continues to see in Stanley, and if he’s ready to find success at the next level.

Chris Priczak: After coaching Jamail at Nassau Community College, what would you say his strengths and weakness are? What can he improve on as he enters his professional career?

A.J. Wynder: When he was [at NCC], I think one of the things [he could] probably continue to work on is his shooting; his perimeter shooting being more consistent and I think he’s probably continued to try to work on that through college and beyond. That’s the first thing I would look at, just being more consistent. It’s not that he can’t shoot. I just think he needs to be more consistent with it and trust his perimeter shot more.

His strength is his intensity. He plays hard, very skillful [and] athletic. [He] attacks the basket with a lot of tenacity and he rebounds the ball off the offensive glass better than any player I’ve ever had in the 20 years I’ve coached.

He just had a knack for going to get the basketball and being able to create from his offensive rebounding. He plays tough defense as well. He takes the challenge of guarding the best player on the other team, as long as it’s size equivalent. And he could guard guys smaller than him as well. 

Priczak: How did you know he was going to be a special player when you scouted him?

Wynder: It’s funny, like I told people before, my assistant coach saw him. I didn’t get to see him. He had already enrolled at Nassau [Community College]. My assistant had an opportunity to see him. Basically for me, it was word of mouth. So my first opportunity to see him play was once he was already here. And then once I saw his skill set, once he was already here, then I knew that I had somebody that was special and that I could work with in regards to his talents.

Priczak: After he finished at Nassau Community College, as you know, he went to play at SUNY Old Westbury and averaged a double-double [22.4 PPG and 12.2 RPG] as a senior, helped lead the team to a 37-18 record over the course of two years and helped the program to its first Skyline Conference championship [in 2015-16 season]. From afar, did you know that he had the mentality to help lead another program to success?

Wynder: Jamail can play Division I basketball. He could [always] have played Division I basketball as far as talent wise. It was just the academic piece in regards to the rules to that are in place that you have to have X amount of credits. You have to graduate to be in a position to go to a D-II or D-I school, so what happened was his academic situation kind of dictated that.

He had to go to a D-III program and because of my relationship with Coach [Bernard] Tomlin [head coach at Old Westbury], I’ve known him for over 30-something years and cause of my relationship with him, I called him first and foremost. I called him and told him I have the kid [Jamail] Stanley [and] that he’s ready to go to school and he just wants to continue getting his education and go to school, so Coach Tomlin had seen him play while he attended Nassau [Community College]. And so for a D-III coach knowing his talent, he jumped on the opportunity immediately and recruited Jamail over that summer prior to him attending Old Westbury and was able to seal the deal in regards to convince him that Old Westbury was the place for him to attend the next two years.

Personally, I felt that Jamial was above the D-III level and not to say that, but I just know how this business works. Sometimes everybody doesn’t take the same route in regards to being a Division I or Division II talent, but Jamial’s situation was based more on the academic requirements that are required to go to D-II, as far as just the number of credits. He had the GPA, but he had to graduate from Nassau [Community College] to be able to go to a Division II or Division I program.

Priczak: As someone who played briefly in the NBA and 10 years in the Continental Basketball Association, what advice would you give a first year professional player [like Jamail Stanley] as he enters his career?

Wynder : Believe in yourself. Don’t get discouraged when you have disappointments or setbacks.  When I started in the USBL [United States Basketball League] in 1987, I played for the Philadelphia Aces [and] didn’t get a lot of playing time. I did make the team, but I didn’t get a lot of playing time. I was playing behind some very good veterans on that team at the guard position and I could have easily gotten discouraged and said this is not for me. But I continued to believe in myself, continued to work hard, continued to develop the parts of my game [and] tried to become what a team needed.

If they had offense, then I was going to become the defensive guy. The advice that I would give Jamail is be yourself, continue to believe in yourself, and continue to work hard and do the things that you’re capable of doing and continue to work on the things that you’re not as good at, so you can separate yourself at some point in time.

Priczak: When I saw him at the 2017 RBA Showcase, his defense was a strong part of his game. But he Jamail told me that he thinks his defense is an underrated part of his game. Would you agree or disagree on that?

Wynder: Personally, I didn’t think it was underrated. I always knew that he could guard other people. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so to speak, but I always looked at him as a guy that could guard anybody. I would put him up against anybody. He may be correct when he said it’s underrated, but not by me as far as his defensive ability.

Priczak: At the RBA Showcase, where other scouts and other NBA team [representations] were around, he looked really good on defense against former NBA G League players and former Division I players. Can you speak on the intensity and energy you saw from him on the defensive end and what the best route for Jamail’s first professional season would be: overseas or in the NBA G League?

Wynder: I can’t say what’s best for him. I just think he needs to make the best decision for him and take advantage of the best opportunity that is presented. But if staying in the United States and playing in the G League is an opportunity that is presented to him, I think that’s a great opportunity.

But sometimes you got to make business decisions or make decisions that sometimes dictate you doing one thing versus another, because the G League starts at a certain time and you can’t wait for the G League and then pass up on opportunities to go overseas. I just think he has to make the best decision for himself. I think Jamail wants a situation where, he can prove himself to the point where he can play at that level. Like I said, I’d put him up against anybody at any level.

And I think the fact that he is willing to be able to take the challenge of guarding players that have already been at that level and have been established at that level speaks volume of someone that wants it [and] has the passion to play at that level, because you have to be hungry. 

Cazzie Russell was an NBA great [and] head coach in the CBA. He was the head coach at Wyoming Wildcatters in the CBA when I played in 1987. Once he gave me an opportunity, it was up to me to take care of the rest. So I say the same thing to Jamail: just continue to believe in yourself, do the things that you’re capable of doing, play with confidence, and just hope that somebody likes what they see. 

I just think that he’s a guy that he believes in family [and] he loves his family. I don’t know if going overseas is the best opportunity for him cause I know you’re pretty far when you go to Europe. You’re not a bus ride or a car ride away. You’re quite a few hours [or] a nice little plane ride away. Sometimes you get homesick in those situations, so knowing Jamail from that standpoint, maybe trying to stay in the United States. But whatever opportunity presents itself, I just think he has to put his best foot forward.

Nassau Community College head coach A.J. Wynder has a knack for finding talent. For a head coach that played briefly in the NBA and established himself in the Continental Basketball Association, he knows what it takes to make it in the professional scene. While he didn’t see Jamail Stanley play until he was enrolled at Nassau Community College, Wynder knew he was a special player.

While Jamail Stanley has been a productive player on the court at both Nassau Community College and Old Westbury, he’s looking to carry that productivity and success to the professional level.

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