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Q&A: Former UNC point guard Joel Berry II talks UNC-Duke rivalry memories

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North Carolina guard Joel Berry (2) shoots the ball during the second half of Saturday night's away game against Duke.

ACC Network analyst Joel Berry II  — a 2017 national champion and Final Four Most Outstanding Player —has played in several memorable UNC-Duke games.

Staff writer Anna Laible spoke with Berry in late January ahead of the first UNC-Duke game of the year. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

The Daily Tar Heel: What are some of your favorite memories from the rivalry?

Joel Berry II: It was a little bit different for me, because I was from Florida. When I got there, I didn't really understand the rivalry until around the time we played, and you could just feel it in the air. I felt like I had that outside perspective of just not really knowing how serious the rivalry was.

That first game we played at Cameron, my eyes were super wide. I didn't know what was going on and I'm like, "This is crazy." That's when I got indoctrinated, it was that first game.

Even leading up to the game, you can tell that everyone's tense. Obviously, the fans care about the season, but if there's one thing you have to do, like a field goal kicker, you got one job. And our one job each year is to beat Duke.

DTH: As a captain in 2017, can you explain what the days were like building up to the UNC-Duke games in comparison to other ACC matchups? 

JB: Leading up to that game, there's a lot of prepping and it is very detailed. It's a different type of intensity. It’s a different type of attention to detail. Coaches don't say it because obviously they do the cliché, "every single game is the same," but the coaches know what's at stake and you can feel it.

As soon as my first shot went up, I kind of knew it was going to be a good night.

DTH: Can you describe what the rivalry atmosphere was like at home and away?

JB: I think what's so awesome in college is we're not professional athletes. Leading up to it, we still go to class. You know all eyes are on you when you're walking through campus and when you're sitting in class. You know the person next to you, even though they don't show it, you know, in their minds, they're leaning over saying, "Joel, Y'all gotta win this game." But, you know, obviously, they're not going to say that. 

But you walk into the away locker room and you can just hear all of the Cameron Crazies running in because it's underground. You can just feel that they're on top of you. I just think all of those feelings, it's hard to describe.

DTH: As an analyst, what strengths do you think UNC has to go toe-to-toe with Duke that the team didn’t have last season?

JB: UNC is playing like one of the best teams in the country. 

I think they have all the pieces. I think this is a team that has so many different weapons. So when I look at this team, when you think about the essence of an elite team, it's about being able to show up and play in different environments and I think this team is capable of doing that. 

When you look at personnel, they match up well with Duke. Honestly, I think UNC has a little bit more talent because they have so much production being able to come off the bench and give two different looks.

DTH: How do you think the transfer portal has impacted the rivalry?

JB: That's a great point because you're used to seeing guys over and over throughout the four years, and I think that's why some guys have developed a hate type of role, whether it be Duke hating a UNC player or UNC hating a Duke player.

That's the difference — you're having these guys that are coming in, and maybe they're there for one year, and then they're gone for the next year. So you don't really develop that hatred for someone.

I know hate is a strong word, but when you're talking about UNC-Duke, there's no other way to put it. 

@anna_laible

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