Joel Berry II withdrew his name from NBA Draft consideration after only 48 hours last week and will return to UNC for his senior season, and Carolina basketball will reap the benefits of his decision.
Berry’s career has already been one for the history books after only three years under Roy Williams’ tutelage. Berry has captured ACC Tournament MVP, Final Four MOP, an NCAA Championship, and will have his jersey hanging in the Smith Center rafters if he never scores another point in Chapel Hill.
Berry’s return to the UNC fold (along with fellow senior Theo Pinson) gives the Tar Heels veteran leadership in an era where such experience is void in college basketball.
While Berry will be the key to the Carolina attack, he knows he can still take his game to higher places in his last campaign.
“Each and every year I’ve gotten better and better,” Berry told goheels.com. “I just don’t want to rush the process. I need to focus on taking care of my body, eating right, and how I approach my game.”
One key to Berry’s approach will be how he meshes with his new teammates. Berry will log major minutes with players he spent very little time with on the court.
The departures of Nate Britt, Kennedy Meeks, and Isaiah Hicks to graduation, along with the early departure of Justin Jackson to the NBA ensures that Berry’s senior leadership will be more valuable than ever.
Along with those departures, the status of rising sophomore Tony Bradley also complicates the makeup of UNC next season. Bradley would be the featured frontcourt player in Williams’ inside-outside style, but first-round draft projections could see the Bartow, Florida native bolt to the NBA.
If Bradley goes pro, Berry’s options in the post will be limited. UNC will see NCAA tourney hero Luke Maye return, and the Heels have signed three post players from the high school ranks. None of those players will provide the post presence Carolina enjoyed last year.
The lack of post experience will put even more pressure on Berry to expand his game. Berry will have plenty of opportunities to improve upon last season’s 14.7 points and 3.6 assists. Rising sophomore point guard Seventh Woods will also give Berry the chance to slide over to shooting guard some next year.
If UNC wants to again return to the top of the college basketball mountain, Joel Berry II will be the main cog in the machine. UNC is lucky to still have him in baby blue.