Joel Berry was one of three North Carolina basketball players to declare for the NBA draft on Sunday. But after just two days of testing the waters, the junior point guard has decided to jump back to the safety of dry land. Berry announced Tuesday that he has decided to withdraw his name from the draft and return to school for his senior season. His return gives the Tar Heels a major boost as they look to defend the national championship they won in Phoenix earlier this month. “After speaking to my family I have decided to withdraw from the 2017 Draft and will return to Carolina next season,” Berry said in a statement. “I know I can continue to improve my game and be better prepared for the NBA after another year playing against the best college competition in the country. There’s no reason to rush leaving school. I love being a Tar Heel and love playing for Carolina and Coach (Roy) Williams.” Despite playing on two sprained ankles, Berry earned Most Outstanding Player honors after recording game-high totals of 22 points and six assists in UNC’s 71-65 national championship victory against Gonzaga. In doing so, he became only the seventh man in NCAA history to score 20 or more points in consecutive national title games. The 6-foot Florida native ranked second on the Tar Heels in scoring at 14.7 points, while leading the team with 138 assists, 53 steals and a 38.3 shooting percentage from 3-point range. Berry was considered a second round pick at best if he had stayed in the draft. Although he could possibly have been helped by going through the draft process the way now former teammate Justin Jackson was a year ago, the UNC captain decided that returning to school outweighed the potential benefits of staying in the draft — even though he had until May 24 to withdraw his name from consideration. “My family and I have enjoyed every part of playing at Carolina,” he said. “I am proud of what we have accomplished in my first three seasons as a Tar Heel and am excited about our team next year, the chance to continue to improve in all areas of the game and the opportunity to complete my education and earn my degree.” Jackson, fellow junior Theo Pinson and freshman Tony Bradley are the other members of UNC’s championship still in the draft. Pinson and Bradley have not hired an agent and have the option of returning. Jackson, the ACC Player of the Year and a projected first round pick, has indicated he intends to stay in the draft.
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