What I have been begging for over the past week or so has finally happened. On Sunday, North Carolina head coach Roy Williams called up Lake Highland Prep's Joel Berry to offer him a spot on the 2014 roster.
While it may sound odd for the Tar Heels to pick up a point guard in three straight seasons, Berry is something special. That isn't to say I don't love the prospects of Marcus Paige (2012) or Nate Britt (2013). I'm excited to watch them play, too.
But this point guard out of Apopka, FL is ready to hit the college hardwood right now—and he still has two more years of prep to get better.
After watching his Each One Teach One team take on Julius Randle's Texas Titans in the Super Showcase, my mind was set on Berry. As a matter of fact, the whole reason I was watching that game was to observe Randle more closely.
Instead, I found myself in awe of Joel Berry's IQ and skill set. I forgot Randle was even on the court at times. That says a lot.
Or it could just be my obsession for pure point guard play. Either way, Joel Berry was phenomenal.
Making a modern comparison of Berry's skill set that Carolina fans can relate to, imagine Dr. Mephesto got a hold of Kendall Marshall, Raymond Felton and Ty Lawson and spliced them together. That is Joel Berry in a nutshell.
Like Marshall, his head is always up and eyes scanning the court. He knows where his guys are at all times because his concentration is always on reading the floor. That's what made Marshall and every other pure point so special.
Too often nowadays, point guards are focused on scoring and being the poster child of the team. Their mindset before they even cross midcourt is, "I'm scoring on this possession." Bring the ball up the floor, read the defense and your teammates, then decide what to do with the rock.
I'm talking to you, Russell Westbrook.
That isn't an issue with Berry. He has an impressively high basketball IQ for someone heading into his junior year of high school.
Since Marshall isn't known for his defensive prowess and speed, that's where Dex comes in. Not only does Berry have a similar build to Strickland at 6'0" and 185 pounds, but he gets to the rim with the quickness of Carolina's combo guard.
He also switches up his speed to get defenders on their heels, much like Marshall had to do with his lack of quickness. That's also something that is usually learned down the road.
Joel Berry is ahead of the game.
Berry's high IQ doesn't only translate to the offensive side of the court, but also on defense. He is a very pesky defender, staying glued to his man even through screens. He took a couple steals coast to coast in that game and took a beautiful charge from Julius Randle on a one-on-one break.
I swear this kid has it all—and he still has two years to get better. I can't express that enough.
Now before we get too excited about this young prospect heading to Chapel Hill, it is just an offer and no commitment has been made. He also has offers from 11 other schools, including conference foes NC State, Florida State, Miami and Maryland.
That doesn't mean we can't over-examine some quotes like we usually do.
Inside Carolina's Evan Daniels (subscription required) broke the story on Berry yesterday and it contained some very intriguing quotes.
On getting the offer from Carolina, Berry had this to say:
"I was very, very excited. It was just that all the hard work is finally paying off. I've been waiting for that offer and a lot of other offers, but that's one I was really waiting for. That's a high major school and high major basketball. Every kid wants to get an offer from UNC that really shows that I’m working really hard."
Two things stand out to me here: "that's one I was really waiting for" and "that's a high major school and high major basketball." Aside from the other ACC teams, Kansas, Ohio State and Florida also offered him.
Aren't they "high major," too?
Joel Berry had a little more to say about Roy Williams and the UNC program:
"Most of the time when I get interest from a school me and my parents look at their academics because you always have to have something to fall back on when basketball stops. UNC has a great academic program. I've been watching UNC play basketball since I was little kid. I love watching North Carolina basketball and I love Roy Williams as a coach."
Academic jokes aside, Berry seems to really like the idea of being in Chapel Hill. Then again, so do a lot of prospects who don't end up choosing Carolina. We shouldn't read too much into this, but it's so hard not to when prospects drop lines like that.
Carolina-bound or not, Joel Berry is set to be a star in college and beyond. And with his school right around the corner from me, you can bet I'll be watching the games sporting Carolina Blue.
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