GREENSBORO – Joel Berry is a rare case.
In the age of one-season college basketball players, the former North Carolina point guard is a pro with four years of college on his resume.
Berry helped the Tar Heels win the 2017 NCAA championship as a junior but returned for his senior year after flirting with the idea of turning pro.
After a season on the West Coast as part of the Los Angeles Lakers organization, Berry is back in North Carolina as a member of the Greensboro Swarm, the G-League affiliate of the Charlotte Hornets.
The Swarm will open its season at Erie at 7 p.m. Saturday.
His first season as a pro was cut short by a torn meniscus and a fractured tibia while playing for the South Bay Lakers in the G-League. He had surgery in February and says he is 100 percent now. He’s eager to be playing again, especially in Greensboro, where he will enjoy the fan support given to UNC alumni.
“It’s always nice to have the fans behind you,” he said recently. “I’m looking forward to that.”
In retrospect, Berry is happy with his decision to delay his entrance into pro basketball and stay at Carolina for four years.
“I want to be the best I can be in all aspects of my life,” he said. “Basketball is a big part of my life, but not the whole thing. The ball will stop bouncing someday and that’s why I decided to stay all four years.”
Berry majored in sports administration at UNC and has a goal to become a general manager.
But first, he wants to work on his game with the Swarm.
“The big things for me this year are staying healthy and increasing my basketball IQ,” he said. “I’m grateful to have an opportunity with this organization, and I hope to take advantage of it.”
He seems to be in the right place. The G-League is devoted to development in players, coaches, administrators and referees.