Welcome to Keeping It Heel’s incoming freshman preview series! Before the McDonalds All-American game and the next season of Carolina basketball, we will preview all three of the Tar Heels recruits for next season. Today, we continue with Joel Berry.
Hometown: Apopka, Florida
High School: Lake Highland Prep
ESPN Rating: 94 (Five Stars)
National Rank: 16th in ESPN 100
Position: Point Guard
Berry is a complete point guard who can score, assist and defend the basketball. He is a natural born leader and will compete next year for minutes and for a starting job. He is a true triple threat point guard, as he can put the ball on the floor and score, shoot the basketball, or dish out a nice assist. He is also a fearless player, not afraid to take a charge or draw contact to get to the line. A real deal prospect with the potential to be the next great Carolina point guard.
I want to see Berry work on improving his shot more this summer in preparation for college. Also, Berry must improve his floater so he can shoot over taller bigs in ACC play. Overall, however, Berry has few weaknesses for an incoming freshman.
Projections for UNC
This is where it gets tricky. After Stilman White was the only point guard left for UNC in the 2012 NCAA Tournament after Kendall Marshall went down with a wrist injury, (Does anybody know if Stilman White is coming back?) Roy Williams made sure to never be faced with such a conundrum ever again. Roy recruited a point guard each of the last three recruiting classes, with Berry finishing the trio of future Tar Heel point guards. Berry will face stiff competition for minutes next season, as Nate Britt looks to improve upon his 2013-2014 campaign and Marcus Paige looks to shoot his way into ACC Player of the Year contention. In the early going, Berry might not get much playing time as he adjusts to the Tar Heel offense. But I do expect Berry to surpass Nate Britt in the starting lineup eventually, and he will be a really good point guard for Carolina if not this year, then in the years that follow.
Berry is a tough little point guard who reminds me a little bit of Ty Lawson. Berry doesn’t have Lawson’s breakaway speed, but they both were tough enough to finish through contact and be natural leaders. Lawson will likely end up having a better career than Berry in both the Pros and here in Chapel Hill, but their games share a few common traits.
Berry is UNC’s third Top-15 recruit in the 2014 class, and he could end up being the most important by the season’s end. If Berry can gel with Marcus Paige and some of UNC’s other key pieces, he could find himself in the starting lineup by the time ACC play rolls around. Berry’s ceiling is joining the ranks of Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson and Kendall Marshall in the list of elite Carolina point guards under Roy Williams.
Check out this interview Joel Berry did with Keeping It Heel’s Bryant Douglass!