MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Joel Berry tested his sore right ankle at practice Thursday and pronounced it sound and ready to go for North Carolina’s Sweet 16 matchup against Butler at FedExForum on Friday. “I still have a little bit of bruising there, so I won’t say I’m at 100 percent,” the junior point guard said. “But today I felt pretty good getting up and down the floor.” Berry has been bothered by the injury since coming down awkwardly on the foot of an opponent during the Tar Heels’ NCAA tournament opener against Texas Southern last week.
Two days later, he helped his team to a second round victory against Arkansas, but complained that the pain in his ankle got worse as the game went on. Berry was put in a walking boot once UNC returned to Chapel Hill and was limited in practice on Wednesday before making the trip to Memphis. Although he still experienced a little pain during Thursday’s full workout, Berry said he felt “pretty good” about the way his ankle is responding and said he’s confident he will be at or near his best once game time around. His coach Roy Williams, always the worrier, sounded a little less confident when asked about his star’s status. “I do think he looks better,” Williams said. “He’s still not Joel yet. Some way, some how between now and game time, he’s got to be the Joel Berry that we’ve seen and that’s been great for us.” Berry ranks second on the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game and leads the Tar Heels in assists at 125.
But while he’s also the Tar Heels’ most accurate 3-point shooter at 40.1 percent, he’s struggled with his accuracy since before his injury came into play. He’s made just four of his last 20 attempts from beyond the arc, dating back to his 5 for 5 performance in the regular season finale against Duke, but remains confident that the ball will eventually start going through the basket for him. “I always think that and I believe I’m going to have a great game (Friday),” Berry said. “I go into every game like that. It’s just hard, because I haven’t had much practice time to get the shots up that I want. But I feel like I’m going to come out and hit some shots.”
Considering the stakes involved against the fourth-seeded Bulldogs, he’s not going to let a little pain stop him from trying. “Everyone has some kind of aches and pains and no one is fully 100 percent at this point of the season,” teammate Nate Britt said. “Some guys may be worse than others, but at this point I doubt anything is going to stop him from playing.”