With the announcement that Joel Berry would be returning for this senior season, the dominoes that will shape UNC’s roster for the 2017-18 season began to fall. The wait still goes on for the final draft decisions of Tony Bradley and Theo Pinson, but Berry’s return does settle the important starting point guard question for next season.
One of the other dominoes North Carolina is waiting on is Kevin Knox. The five-star forward is still yet to announce what college he will attend, but by all accounts, the Tar Heels appear to have a pretty decent shot.
Now that the Final Four’s Most Outstanding Player is back, will that have any impact on whether Knox will end up in Chapel Hill?
Obviously, it should be stated that it’s tough to know either way. It’s entirely possibly that Knox already has his heart set on UNC, or somewhere else, and the roster construction may not actually factor into his final decision. It’s difficult to read into the actions and though processes of an 18-year-old. However, Berry’s return probably can’t hurt.
With Berry back in the fold, North Carolina is, at least on paper, a solid, NCAA tournament type team even without Bradley, Pinson, or Knox. It would be difficult to see that team as any sort of contender, but they would be fine. Even without Pinson and Bradley, a Berry-Knox combo might not lead to a national title, but they could probably replicate a decent percentage of the production Berry-Jackson put up in 16-17.
In terms of system, point guard is the most important position on a Roy Williams’ team. Berry might not be a pure passer, but he still runs the offense. Seventh Woods showed flashes last season. Most players show progress in their sophomore season, and it’s not unreasonable that Woods could as well. However, in terms of prospects of winning for next season, it’s obvious that Berry would be better.
Some recruiting people show some skepticism of whether Knox is a definite one-and-done player. However, by all accounts, he sees himself as one and wants to showcase his game. That might turn off some people, but with his talent, and a starting spot open, it’s not a case of fitting a square peg into a round hole.
He could easily slide into the Justin Jackson role that worked well last season. He might not end up as good as Jackson was last season, but there will be opportunities for him to showcase his game while it comes within the flow of UNC’s normal offense. And now if Knox does come, he would be playing alongside a point guard and facilitator who has played in that offense for four years.
Then of course, there’s the borderline conspiracy theory that Berry is returning because he knows something about Knox. It’s possible that there could be something in that, but Berry realizing his draft stock wasn’t what he wanted it to be is far more likely.
Joel Berry returning to North Carolina for his senior season might not have any impact on whether of not Kevin Knox comes to the school. He could very easily end up at Duke. Maybe he even does do the Missouri thing. Again, he’s 18.
However, getting to play with a star point guard with whom you could potentially make a deep March run with probably won’t hinder Carolina’s pursuit.