The performance that sent Joel Berry's jersey to the Smith Center rafters could be his last in a North Carolina uniform.
The junior point guard declared for the 2017 NBA Draft on Sunday, 10 days after former teammate Justin Jackson decided to forgo his senior season and enter his own name in June's draft. He joins teammates Theo Pinson and Tony Bradley as the three Tar Heels to test the waters at the NBA Draft Combine without signing an agent. All three could still decide to return to UNC next season if they withdraw their names by May 24.
After earning second-team All-ACC honors this year, Berry would have entered next season as an early favorite for ACC Player of the Year — an award that Jackson snagged this season after a dedicated offseason. But if he leaves, the 6-foot point guard projects as a late second-rounder, if he gets drafted at all, because he lacks the size of traditional NBA lead guards and hasn't shown a consistent enough shot to sell himself as a spark off the bench.
In what could be his final game as a Tar Heel, Berry tallied 22 points and six assists against Gonzaga to earn Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four despite playing on two sprained ankles. It was a highlight for the junior after a tumultuous tournament run in which he battled through injuries and inconsistency, shooting a combined 5-for-35 in wins against Texas Southern, Arkansas and Oregon. He also struggled mightily in six of UNC's seven losses this season, averaging 9.2 points on 27.7 percent shooting in those games.
But North Carolina rode Berry's biggest performances to season-defining wins — including a Maui Tournament triumph over Wisconsin, a victory against Duke in the regular-season finale and the national title win over Gonzaga.