Tar Heels Eying Berry

NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. --- As North Carolina furthers its interest in point guards from the class of 2014, Joel Berry's performance at the EYBL Finals should ensure he factors heavily into the Tar Heel mix.

Despite missing star center Dakari Johnson, Berry quarterbacked the Florida-based Each 1 Teach 1 squad to the quarterfinals. He led the event in assists with 7.0 per game, averaged 17.2 points and was a frequent visitor to the free throw line, shooting 82.2 percent.

For his high school team at Orlando (Fla.) Lake Highland, Berry plays the shooting guard role and does it exceptionally well, so much so that he became the first sophomore to win the state's Mr. Basketball award.

For Each 1 Teach 1 he's part-scorer, part-distributor -- and all leader.

"I think I have improved this summer," Berry said. "Especially with my leadership. I think I have improved distrubuting the ball and scoring when I need to.

"I can guard the one or the two and on offense, it's just whatever they put me at. I can play the one or two. Most (colleges) are recruiting me as a point guard because of my height, but that's fine, that's what I want to play because I like to have the ball in my hands to distribute and get my teammates open."

When the 2012 EYBL circuit began, Berry's recruitment was local, comprised predominantly of in-state programs. After three months on the game's biggest summer stage, that's no longer the case.

"It's changed a lot," Berry said. "There are a lot of schools looking at me and are interested now.

"That's why we come out to play EYBL, for (college coaches) to see us. I just came out here and was not worried about who is in the stands and know it'll take care of itself."

North Carolina watched five of Berry's six games in North Augusta, two of which included Roy Williams on the sidelines.

In the Friday evening game in front of the Tar Heel head coach, Berry never came out of the game, posting 20 points, 8 assists and 3 steals in the pool play victory over The Family.

He opened the game by making an impact defensively, forcing two early turnovers. That was by design.

"That's what I try to do - I try to start out on the defensive end to get myself going," he said. "If I stay low and keep my base, and have active hands, it'll work. ... I've been trying to focus more on that. This year I have improved a lot on my defense."

He ended the game with a big defensive play as well, with a two-handed block on a drive by Top 10 senior wing James Young in the final minute to seal the win.

In between those big defensive plays, Berry was attacking the defense off the dribble to set up teammates or draw fouls to get to the free throw line (where he was 12-for-12).

"It's a combination of strength and quickness," Berry said of his drives. "I try to get my defender off balance and try to get to the hole and finish or dish it off."

Three months ago Berry had just begun receiving interest from the Tar Heels. Now he categorizes UNC's interest as "very high."

"They've contacted me a lot, telling me they want to get me up on a visit," said Berry, whose regular communication thus far has been with UNC assistant coach C.B. McGrath. "I'm planning on talking to Coach Williams after AAU is over."

A visit to Chapel Hill may have to wait, as Berry doesn't plan to take any out-of-state visits any time soon.

"I'm focused on my high school team and my academics - I don't want to go off and not be able to do my work."

Joel Berry Profile

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