Joel Berry II is one of the top high school point guards in the country and will be playing his college ball at the University of North Carolina next season. The 6’0” Berry is ranked #17 by ESPN and recently competed in the McDonald’s All-American and Nike Hoop Summit games. He also finished his high school season at Lake Highland (FL) as a back to back state champion and became the first player to win the state’s Mr. Basketball award for three consecutive years.
How did the high school season go for you?
It was pretty good. It was a good way to go out winning my second (championship) in a row. We had some doubts at the beginning of the season because it was a new team. Our changing point was when we played Grayson Allen’s team down in Port Charlotte. We lost by like twenty-something, but it was a good loss. Even though we lost, we realized we could compete with high level players like Grayson. After that we didn’t lose a game from December to the end of the season.
During the high school season, especially at the City of Palms it looked like you started incorporating the floater into your game?
Yeah, going into the next level you aren’t going to be able to get all the way into the lane. Coming off the screen I normally pull-up for the jump shot, but when I came off the screens (against Taft) I felt like I could throw the floater. I felt with the pull-up it’s more of a slow shot and they might have blocked that, but with the floater you don’t really know when that is coming and it’s really fast. They had a lot of athletes so I tried to use the floater some more. You know, the floater is in my game, but that is something I want to use more at the next level.
In the McDonald’s practices you were matched up with Tyler Ulis and a little bit with Emmanuel Mudiay. How do you think it went?
I look at this experience as one that a lot of people don’t get. Every single play you are going against high caliber players and a high caliber defense. I love being here, sometimes I might make a mistake but it’s all part of the learning experience. I’ve just been having fun hanging with the guys, and at the same time it’s competitive. We are just having fun and raising money for the McDonald’s program.
How has the McDonald’s experience been off the court?
That was a great experience. That was my first time working with kids with disabilities or kids with illnesses that are deadly. It was a great experience and you see how that impacts the children when they have that smile on their face. I just love doing stuff like that. Sometimes I don’t like doing it because I feel bad for the child and just want to be able to do something about it, but I don’t know the cure for all that. Just bringing a smile to their face though has been great. I’ve been doing research on how a feeling can heal someone mentally and physically at times. If those kids can smile every day like that hopefully it can heal them in a small way.
What are your expectations for next year at UNC?
I think there are a lot of high expectations with the recruiting class coming in and people are expecting a lot. We can’t let that get to us, but I just want to come in and be like a sponge. Just soak up everything I can and learn the system and everything. I think we have the team to make it to the national championship. You know, we have Marcus Paige coming back. Nate Britt is a great player. With the three incoming freshmen, along with Brice, Kennedy, Meeks, and Hicks, well we will have a lot of talent. We just want to go in and bond together and use our talent to the best of our abilities. I think we will be able to compete for a national championship.
It seems like you, Theo, and Justin are all pretty close and there is a lot of interaction with the current Tar Heel players. How do you think it will be joining that group?
Yes sir, I’ve been up there for a few visits and I actually played against Marcus in the EYBL circuit when I was in 9th or 10th grade. We’ve known each other and I’ve been able to get to know some of the other guys on my visits so I think we already have a good bond and just looking to continue that when I get up there.
When will you head to Chapel Hill?
I’ll head there on June 16. My classes start on June 19. I’ll be there for a month and then come back home for four to five weeks and then get ready to start my year in Chapel Hill.