Berry Eager to Get Started

Joel Berry has spent the last few weeks mentoring his younger brothers' AAU team, the Orlando Chaos. The topic? Making the transition from their current level to one with players who are faster, stronger, and better. Berry will make such a transition when he arrives in Chapel Hill on Sunday.

He's getting his advice on the rigors of the college game from his family, UNC assistant coach C.B. McGrath, and another source you might not expect.

"I've been giving the kids pointers about what to face, just about the adversity that's going to come their way," said Berry. "I've been talking to (former Duke All-American) Grant Hill a lot. His daughter goes to my school and he's always around so I've had a chance to talk to him about some stuff."

"He's telling me it's going to be faster and much different," Berry continued. "He's told me to go in and enjoy my time there, enjoy college life, and compete and work as hard as I can."

It's a unique situation for Berry because the way he looks up to and admires Hill is the way the elementary and middle school players look up to and admire him.

"They're kind of starstruck," explained Berry. "I just consider myself an ordinary person like everyone else who just happened to be blessed with some basketball abilities. I tell them I'm not anything special, I'm just like them."

Because of a lingering ankle injury, Berry hasn't done much competing lately. It's the first time in "a number of years" he's been able to get away from basketball and spend time with his family.

With his parents and four siblings in the house, there's rarely a dull moment.

"We really don't need to go out and spend time with other people, because we have all the fun at home," he said. "Right now, with the NBA Finals going on, we love to sit around and watch the games and yell at the TV screen and everything. We have a lot of fun."

Berry places his ankle at about 90 percent. Were there any reason to be playing, he certainly would be. Instead, he's doing strength training regularly and preparing to fulfill a life-long dream.

The key, he said, to cracking the rotation of a Carolina roster that already has four point guards (Marcus Paige, Nate Britt, Stilman White, Luke Davis) is his defense.

"I take pride in playing defense and it seems like not many people do anymore," he said. "That's what I've tried to excel at the last couple of years. I've found that my defense really helps my offensive game. I'm just going to come in, play how I'm used to playing, and bring the toughness and competition I bring."

Berry, who said he is up to 6-1, 190 pounds, will live with fellow UNC signees Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson on South Campus. The familiarity they've developed off the court could pay dividends on it over the coming years.

"I think it'll be great with those guys because the last few years we've be built a relationship with each other and we've stayed in contact," Berry said. "They're two great guys, they come from great families and we all have the same goals. I'm just ready for the experience and ready to get started."

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