Joel Berry II was the No. 27 basketball recruit in the country in 2014. Hailing from suburban Orlando, Barry signed with North Carolina out of high school. And when you're a 4-star recruit who signs with North Carolina, you expect your career to go a certain way. You start from Day One, you make a deep run in March and then you're off to claim your fame and fortune in the NBA.
That didn't happen for Berry. Battling a groin injury, Berry didn't start a single game during his freshman season of 2015. In fact, Berry averaged 4.2 points and 1.5 assists on just over 13 minutes a night.
The reality of big time college basketball smacked Berry squarely in the face, and he wasn't prepared to handle it. As he said during a Senior Night speech to a packed Dean Dome -- which is an awesome tradition -- Berry was ready to leave. "It was a hard time for me," he said. "I was blaming it on the coaching staff that I wasn't getting enough playing time. I was going back to my room, I was crying, telling myself this might not be for me. I was calling my parents, saying, 'Mom and Dad, I don't know what to do.'
"My parents did a great job of telling me, 'You know what? Stop trying to blame it on the coaching staff and look at yourself. What are you doing to give the coaches confidence to put you out on the court?' And that changed my whole entire career here."
Berry is far from the first athlete to go through the freshmen blues -- or the 10,000th -- but few have come through so successfully on the other side. He's played in 107 games over the past two seasons and counting -- starting 105 -- with two trips to the national title game (the Heels lost to Villanova at the buzzer in 2016 and beat Gonzaga last season) and claimed Most Outstanding Player honors of the 2017 Final Four.
I have no idea if fame and fortune really do await Berry in the NBA, but either way, he's carved himself a legacy into the tree of North Carolina basketball lore. And that never would've happened if he didn't look himself in the mirror first.