Growing up in Apopka, Florida, Joel Berry II and his mother, Kathie, never missed watching the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball games on TV. It was during one of those games that Kathie told Joel that one day, he would be a Tar Heel.
“We would sit there and watch every game,” Berry said. “And one day my mom told me that I would be wearing that jersey one day and I would be playing for Coach (Roy) Williams. At the time, I didn’t believe it.”
Many years down the road, that prediction became a reality. Berry was a five-star recruit at Lake Highland Prep. In his high school career, Berry averaged 21.7 points, six rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.6 steals per game.
Berry was recruited by many big schools, including Florida, Florida State, Kansas, Marquette and North Carolina. When it came to making a decision on signing day, it was a no-brainer for Berry.
“It was pretty easy,” he said. “Once I got that scholarship, I took my official visit. And I kind of knew that it was for me. That was the only visit that I took. I followed my gut, and my gut led me to the right school.”
Berry had an incredible career at North Carolina that included two ACC titles, two Final Four appearances and one National Championship.
That championship win came a year after losing to Villanova on a heart-breaking game-winning shot in 2016. Berry and the Tar Heels returned to the championship game the following season to defeat Gonzaga. Berry said that National Championship tops his list of best memories at UNC.
“I’m supposed to say that because we won it, but I think it’s the way we did it,” Berry said. “Not too many people make it the year before and then make it back the next year. A lot of people don’t understand how tough that is. That was something we had in our minds as soon as we went into that summer after we lost. I think that’s the reason why it is one of the times I will remember, just because of the way we did it from the year before into the next year.”
Berry became a regular starter in his sophomore season and put up some great numbers in North Carolina’s backcourt. Berry capped his career off with averages of 17.1 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in his senior year.
Berry has proven he can lead, win and score in the college game. Now he is preparing for the next stage of his basketball career. Berry has worked out with some teams and gotten some good feedback.
“Teams like my winning background and how competitive I am,” Berry said. “Even though I’ll be a rookie, I still have experience being on a National Championship team and doing that two years in a row. Just having an overall winning record at Carolina, and just being able to knock down shots. I’ve gotten some pretty good feedback.”
Berry knows there is room for improvement too. He said he wants to get better at distributing the ball and improve his body for the NBA in order to be more flexible and athletic. His height has been one of the bigger knocks on him, but he is confident he can still attack inside.
“I don’t let that be a factor in my game,” Berry said. “I feel like I can get to the rim and finish.”
Berry has cemented himself as one of the greats at North Carolina. The Tar Heels have also put a lot of great players in the NBA. It will be interesting to see which team Berry lands with in the next few weeks.
Joel Berry II scouting report
Measurables: 6’0″ w/ shoes, 185 pounds, 6’3.25″ wingspan, 7’8″ standing reach (All measurements from 2014 Nike Hoops Summit.)
Strengths: Berry is a very experienced and intelligent point guard. He won a national title in 2017 and took home the trophy for Most Outstanding Player. In 2016 and 2017 he made the All-Tournament teams for his efforts. He also played in a tough ACC for four seasons. With that, Berry has played the best of the best and won games against the best teams and players. Teams will love getting a proven winner and player who won’t be phased by the bright lights of the NBA.
His outside shooting is a great strength and wasn’t even his best this season. He injured his right shooting hand before the season and it definitely hampered his ability to shoot this season. This past season he shot 34.4 percent from deep but shot 39.6 percent overall. With some added time in the gym and some separation from his injury, Berry should be able to shoot very well at the NBA level.
He has good speed and quickness that helps him be effective in transition. He uses this asset to outrun defenders or set up teammates for wide open shots. While he won’t be the greatest defender, the quickness should help him stay in front of a lot of NBA point guards.
Weaknesses: With Berry being just six feet tall with a wingspan that is not too great either, he will have a hard time playing in the NBA with players littered with height and length. His defense may be limited due to this. If he gets switched on a bigger player, he won’t be able to contest their shots properly. It may also make it hard to finish at the rim.
Berry is not the most athletic point guard, which could make it tough to match up with some of the athletic players at his position in the NBA like John Wall and Russell Westbrook. He will also have to finish at the rim with layups instead of dunks, leaving him susceptible to blocked shots. Berry will still have to attack the basket and create for his teammates but will have to adjust his game a little bit to do so.
While the experience Berry has is valuable, he is also already 23 years old. Most players in this draft are around 19, which means teams will be expecting a more finished product for a player who is four years older than a lot of prospects. He needs to show that he can still improve and hasn’t come anywhere close to reaching his ceiling.
Outlook: A team looking for a smart, experienced point guard who can stretch the floor with his shooting should take a chance on Berry.
Here is the full audio of Berry’s interview:
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