The 2014-15 season is almost here and in preparation for that we profile the players. Today's focus is on incoming point guard Joel Berry.
Joel Berry II, PG, 6-0, 195 lbs
In 2012, when Dexter Strickland blew out his ACL and Kendall Marshall was lost with a broken wrist leaving only Stilman White to run the team in the NCAA Tournament, Roy Williams swore to someone or something he would never be without point guard talent going three deep. This season is makes the third straight UNC has brought in a top 100 freshman point guard and the second time in three years that guard has been a McDonald's All-American.
Joel(pronounced "jole") Berry joins a team with an experienced point guard in Marcus Paige who is being named to every preseason All-American team out there and Nate Britt, starter at point guard for 16 games last season. Needless to say Berry is going to need to find his niche on a team that has Paige's all-around skill and Britt's blazing speed as viable options to run the offense. It also means Berry will be forced to play at the wing guard position for stretches.
In many ways Berry is a nice counter to both Paige and Britt. Whereas Paige uses a probing dribble to find driving space and Britt depends on this speed, Berry uses his strength to bully his way into the lane and draw contact. Berry is very much in the same mold as Raymond Felton or Ty Lawson but without the ridiculous speed. Much like a football team uses a quick running back in tandem with a bruiser rusher, UNC can change speeds and types of point guards on the fly with Roy Williams not ruling out using all three at the same time.
With UNC's obvious needs on the perimeter, Berry will be looked upon to shoot and hit threes. His 0-4 effort in the exhibition game against Fayetteville State shows he's not afraid to shoot, since those threes made up 40% of his attempts in that game. However, more than just shooters, UNC needs players who can consistently make three or rather make them enough to change the defensive dynamic. Berry is also an excellent free throw shooter(6-7 in the exhibition) which should be a huge help to a team that suffered greatly in that area last season. It stands to reason some of the "all three point guards on the floor" scenarios Williams spoke of will be at the end of close games.
Berry's biggest challenge will be carving out playing time for himself. Williams will rotate bodies, that much is a given, so there will be plenty of opportunity for Berry to have an impact. Since there is more backcourt depth, Williams can make an effort to keep Paige's minutes down. That also should provide an open door for Berry to walk through. Ultimately, Berry can get to the floor by being a solid defender and playing mistake free basketball while running the team.
Roy Williams has shown himself to be an great evaluator of point guard talent and finding players that perfectly fit his system. Berry is set to be the latest in that trend and more than that provides key insurance at a position UNC didn't have three years ago.