North Carolina guard Joel Berry II has suffered an injury to each ankle in the NCAA Tournament. He said Friday he’s feeling much better ahead of the Tar Heel’s Final Four matchup with Oregon.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — No one believed for a second that North Carolina junior guard Joel Berry II ever would sit out the Tar Heels’ Final Four matchup with Oregon on Saturday night no matter how badly he hurt. Plenty questioned how effective he’d be having to play through pain, though.
Berry wasn’t shy about updating his status during a Friday press conference at University of Phoenix Stadium, saying he’s feeling “85 percent” after suffering two ankle injuries during the NCAA Tournament. Another night to rest surely will help get that number as close to 100 as possible.
“I just keep telling myself there’s only four more days left in the season,” Berry said. “I’m going to give it my all and do whatever it takes to get my body right.”
Berry injured his right ankle in North Carolina’s first-round win over Texas Southern, then shot 2 of 13 from the field in the second-round win over Arkansas with little time recover. After having more time to heal, Berry scored 26 points in the Tar Heels’ rout of Butler in the Sweet 16.
But Berry then injured his left ankle in the Elite Eight win over Kentucky and had to sit out a roughly four-minute stretch. He said the pain was so bad after the game that if North Carolina had another contest the next day, he wouldn’t have been able to play.
“Right now it feels a lot better than what it was,” Berry said. “That’s always a good thing.”
Junior Justin Jackson figured all along that his teammate simply needed some rest time and would be on the court no matter what against Oregon. That’s why he had no trouble poking a little fun at Berry on Friday.
“I don’t think we ever had a thought in our mind that he wasn’t going to play,” Jackson said. “Plus, I feel like he’s had an off day the last three days so …”
The final part of that comment drew laughs from coach Roy Williams and junior Theo Pinson, who interrupted by saying, “He better play!”
“If he can’t play, there’s definitely something more wrong,” Jackson continued. “It does give us more confidence to know he’ll be out there with us.”
How effective Berry can play will be answered shortly.