Berry Up For The Challenge

HAMPTON, Va. – To say the last few months for Joel Berry have been eventful would be an understatement.

Since December, the 6-1 point guard from Orlando, Florida has come back from a meniscus tear, made a verbal commitment to the school of his dreams, UNC, won the state title he so coveted and was named Florida's Gatorade Player of the Year for the second straight season.

Then, just weeks before his Each 1 Teach 1 travel squad started practice, Berry got another surprise when friend and 2014 standout D'Angelo Russell joined the team.

"It's great having him here, especially somebody that can help me on the wing," said Berry,'s No. 14 overall player in the class of 2014. "Last year, I had to mainly do it all by myself. Now, I have somebody I love to play with and who can score the ball too."

Earlier this month, UNC head coach Roy Williams traveled to Montverde (Fla.) Academy and offered Russell a scholarship.

"He (Roy Williams) didn't talk to me about it beforehand," Berry said. "D'Angelo is a great player and I think he deserves it. Later down the road, we'll have to see if he goes there (UNC), it's his decision. We joke around about it (playing at the same school) but ultimately it's his decision. I would love to play with him."

The additional scoring Russell provides has been a welcome site for E1T1 as Berry still hasn't fully recovered from the meniscus tear. He said he is somewhere between 85 and 90 percent healthy.

"I'm feeling good," he said. "I'm still getting my explosion back and everything. It's going to come; just right now I'm working on my body and trying to stay healthy."

Halfway through the first two sessions of EYBL, Berry said he's noticed more consistent efforts from opponents. He figures most of that comes from the fact that he's now a UNC commitment.

"I proved myself so everybody kind of comes in and wants to go at me," he said. "I'm up for the challenge. They just come at you harder and play defense harder. That's all about basketball, just go compete."

Added E1T1 head coach Edward Francis: "He's not getting out of character just because he committed to UNC. He's not relaxing, he's still going out there and working hard. Having him and D'Angelo together is a blessing. They're just good guys and on the basketball court, they make it easy. They both have good spirits."

One place Berry likes to compete is on defense. Because of his strong frame, Berry is able to man-handle defenders and use his quickness to get steals and create turnovers. It's something he and his dad work on regularly.

"We talk about playing defense and letting it start from there," he said. "A lot of guys here can score, but the one thing everybody doesn't want to do is play defense and I can set myself apart from a lot of kids by just playing hard, lockdown defense."

Offensively, Berry wants to improve his overall game.

"I want to play harder and get back to playing my game," he said. "I'm working on my mid-range, shots and floaters and everything."

Joel Berry Profile

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