Since their arrival at UNC, the two have been on a national championship squad and made two Final Fours. During their four years, the Tar Heels have a record of 114-34.
In Berry’s senior season, the guard is averaging a career high in scoring. Pinson is first on the team in assists, second in rebound average, and has scored double-figures in five straight games for the first time in his career.
On Tuesday, Berry and Pinson lost their final home game, falling to unranked Miami, 91-88, on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that was eerily similar to the shot Kris Jenkins hit in the national championship in 2016. Berry contributed 31 points, including a 3-pointer to tie the game with four seconds left. Pinson had 12 points and 11 assists.
But the real story wasn't the game.
Tuesday night was a celebration of two players who came into this program as frustrated young boys and will leave together as men.
It celebrated times when Berry came back to his dorm in tears, as the two vented for hours in the living room over their first-year struggles.
“(We) made sure that we kept the right mindset, that every time we went in the next day we wouldn’t let what happened the day before affect what’s going to happen the next day,” Berry said. “And we helped each other through this process. That’s the great thing about us.”
The two arrived together, but their paths diverged as sophomores.
Berry was a starting point guard, playing next to senior Marcus Paige, but still flourishing. He finished tied for second in scoring (13.4 points per game).
Pinson was a reserve, playing just 18.7 minutes a game. Yet when Jenkins’ buzzer-beater dropped through the net in the 2016 national championship, there they stood on the court, heartbroken together.
As juniors, they both dealt with injuries throughout the season. Pinson missed 19 games. Berry only missed two, but battled two sprained ankles throughout the NCAA Tournament.
It did not stop them from reaching the summit of college basketball: a 71-65 win over Gonzaga in the 2017 title game.
All the nights they spent crying together, talking for hours, wondering if the NCAA would put postseason sanctions on their program, questioning if they would ever get the playing time they deserved — it had all paid off.
“If you would have told me that I would have the Final Four MOP and the national championship and whatever else, I would have told you that you were lying to me,” Berry said.
Now, those long nights they had spent talking about the struggles they endured in 2014 seemed light years away. So when UNC struggled at times this season, including a major home upset against Wofford in December, the two did not lose faith.
Even through the struggles, Berry has been able to smile.
“I mean, obviously he makes that mad face on the court — he’s never smiling,” Pinson said about his friend. “Well, he smiled more this year, which is kind of weird.”
One thing is certain. Their legacies will live on. Berry’s jersey will be honored in the rafters as the Most Oustanding Player of the 2017 Final Four. Pinson, whose first impression of Berry was that he was mad at the world, will be the best man when the guard marries fiancée Kelsey Porter.
Berry's postgame speech was first. It was short and to the point. His voice cracked at times, and his face was filled with emotion. He ended it by letting everyone know that a team led by him and Pinson should never be counted out.
Next was Pinson's speech. At times he cried, at times he made jokes that cracked up the whole crowd. He thanked everyone, and let his parents know that everything he did was for them.
Head coach Roy Williams spoke last, his face red and tears dripping down his cheeks.
"It might be the most significant recruiting class of the last 50 years," he said. "From the bottom of my heart, I do love you."
And just like that, they left the Smith Center court, side by side, for the final time in their illustrious careers.
But before they leave the team forever, they have one thing left they want to accomplish.
“Two national championships, three Final Fours,” Pinson said. “That’s the goal.”
@DTHSports | email@example.com