The allure of making a return trip to the Final Four outweighed the urgency to become a professional for Joel Berry. UNC’s starting point guard is returning for his junior season, his father confirmed to Inside Carolina on Friday morning.
"We talked briefly about what he wanted to do and I always told him 'Don't rush the journey,' Joel Berry Sr. said. "That had always been his plan (to return), even if he had a great season."
And he did have a great season.
Berry earned ACC Tournament MVP honors - the first Tar Heel to ever earn that award as a sophomore - after scoring 19 points against Virginia in the conference final. And his big games on the big stage continued into the national championship game against Villanova, where he posted 20 points and four assists.
"He wasn't discouraged over the loss," Berry Sr. said. "He's just excited to be able to make it to the Final Four and do it again now that he sees it's possible. It's so hard to make it to the Final Four and once you see that goal is possible, you come back to the gym and work hard.
"He's looking forward to getting back to working out over the summer and come back and try to do it again. I was happy to hear him say that, because that's one of his goals, to get to the Final Four and win a championship, not just get there."
In addition to his 12.8 points per game, Berry led UNC in assists (3.8), steals (1.5), three-point field goal percentage (38.2), and free throw percentage (86.7). Head coach Roy Williams praised Berry as "our most consistent player all year."
"It's good to hear your worth," Berry Sr. said. "Our discussion was let's try to get back in the gym and work hard and see if we can have another successful season next year.
"That's his goal: to come back and try to do it again."