UNC Basketball: Joel Berry pens letter to Tar Heel fans


Joel Berry writes a letter to UNC fans in the latest article from The Players’ Tribune

It wasn’t the ending we imagined for University of North Carolina senior Joel Berry as the Tar Heels bowed out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. But that doesn’t change the legacy that the point guard left on this program.

Berry played four years at North Carolina and racked up the accolades, leaving the program as one of the best players in history.

As Berry’s time at Carolina has come to an end, he left one last letter for UNC fans thanking them for everything in the past four years. Berry teamed up with The Players’ Tribune to write the special letter.

The point guard talked about his rough first season with UNC in which he appeared in 30 games, averaging 4.2 points. He mentions a specific moment where he thought Carolina actually wasn’t for him and he had a tough time adjusting to life in college.

Berry pinpoints a game against Butler in a early-season tournament in the Bahamas:

"We were playing an early-season game down in the Bahamas against Butler and it seemed like I couldn’t get anything right at the time. I had come into the program as a five-star recruit and, for whatever reason, I was feeling like I had never picked up a basketball before. I made a bad turnover and I immediately knew I was coming out of the game.My head dropped. I ran over and just flopped myself on the bench.I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself and, without intending to, I just started to cry. I put my face between my hands because I didn’t want anyone to know how overwhelmed I was, and all of a sudden I felt Coach Williams grab me by the arms and say, ‘Look at me, son. Look at me.’It was hard to look at Coach because I felt like I had let him down."

Berry talked about how that moment helped his relationship with head coach Roy Williams get stronger. He didn’t leave the program and returned for his sophomore season where he started in 39 games for the Tar Heels as they made a run to the National Championship.

The Tar Heels lost to Villanova on a buzzer-beater in what was a heartbreaking moment for every UNC fan. Players hung their heads after Kris Jenkins shot went in and seniors Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson saw their careers end just like that.

But the Tar Heels would be back. Berry, Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks all announced they were returning to UNC and the program welcomed a freshman big in Tony Bradley Jr.

For the 2016-17 season, it was all about redemption. UNC faced adversity the previous season and now it was time to respond. They would advance to the National Championship Game again by beating Kentucky on Luke Maye’s buzzer beater in the Elite 8 and then survived against Oregon in the Final Four.

In a hard-fought game against Gonzaga, the Tar Heels would prevail late with Berry icing the game at the free throw line. He shared this special moment at the end of the game:

"I was standing on the foul line getting ready to shoot some free throws, tears rolling down face.We were up by five points, and I knew in my heart that we were about to win the national championship. It was definitely one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced.So, as I stepped up to shoot, all teary-eyed, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that one of the refs was approaching me. I had no clue what he was about to say, so I made sure that I kept my mind on preparing to make the free throws and finishing out the game.When he got to me, the ref said, ‘Your coach wanted me to ask you if you needed a timeout.’ And as I was standing there, a part of me wanted to just tough it out and shoot the free throws right there, but I was losing it on national television. I was having a tough time keeping my composure.Coach was just being who he is; always putting others before himself. In that crazy moment when everyone was so emotional, he was just thinking about me, and what he knew was best for me in that moment.I thought for a second and then turned to the ref and said, ‘Yes, sir. I need a timeout.’What’s funny is that the timeout didn’t help me get myself together one bit. I went back to shoot the free throws and my eyes were still full of tears. It was so bad that I couldn’t even see the rim. I mean, if you haven’t had that happen to you, I’m going to tell you right now: It’s pretty tough.Somehow I managed to get it together and make the second shot. A few moments later, I was covered in confetti and celebrating a national title."

Berry was named the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player and just a few weeks later announced he was returning to UNC.

Although his senior season didn’t go as planned, Berry still left a legacy at UNC that fans will never forget. He was named to the First Team All-ACC in his senior season and will depart Carolina with his jersey in the rafters.

Berry shares a lot more in the article for the Players’ Tribune and it’s certainly worth the read.

Next: Roy Williams offers new 2019 target

He signs off with a special message for UNC fans which we will save for you to read. It’s been a pleasure watching him play basketball at North Carolina and we wish him good luck in his future.