North Carolina's Joel Berry II (2), during the NCAA Tournament national championship game April 3 against Gonzaga in Glendale, Ariz., announced last week that he would enter his name in the NBA but the next day decided to return to UNC for his senior year. Berry was named Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four as the Tar Heels won their sixth national title.
North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky, left, poses with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the Chicago Bears with the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft April 27 in Philadelphia. Trubisky was the first of six Tar Heels taken in the draft.
By Ross Martin
Special to the Times
The announcement came last week that North Carolina freshman Tony Bradley and juniors Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson would enter the 2017 NBA draft, but not hire representation. They would be able to go through all the pre-draft workouts and the NBA Combine, but by not hiring an agent they would still be able to return to North Carolina for the 2017-17 season.
But a little more than 24 hours later, Berry announced that he would be back for his senior season. It was a quick turnaround and one that certainly improved the national champion Tar Heels’ outlook for next season.
“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 UNC release. “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.”
Justin Jackson did the same thing after the 2015-16 season. He ended up withdrawing his name and returning to UNC for his junior season, when he became a consensus All-American and the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year in helping the Tar Heels win their sixth national title.
Now UNC waits the decisions of Bradley and Pinson. Bradley, along with Jackson and seniors Kennedy Meeks, and Isaiah Hicks, were all invited to the NBA Combine, but Pinson did not get an invitation.
BROOKS THE 5TH SIGNEE
The Tar Heels’ 2017 recruiting class received a boost April 21 when 6-foot-10, four-star power forward Garrison Brooks out of Layfayette, Ala. committed to North Carolina. On Monday, Brooks signed his National Letter of Intent, bringing UNC’s 2017 class to five.
Brooks gives UNC immediate depth at the forward position alongside junior Luke Maye and potentially Bradley (if he returns). Per the 247Sports Composite ranking, Brooks is the No. 31 power forward and the No. 128 overall prospect in the 2017 class.
“We are excited and pleased that Garrison has chosen to come to North Carolina,” head coach Roy Williams said in a statement. “We have a definite need for players with size. We liked him early in the recruiting process and tried to sign him in the fall. We’re very glad he is joining our program. He’s a talented young man with a wonderful family and is the type of young man we enjoy being part of our program.”
Brooks joins a signing class that includes combo guard Jalek Felton, shooting guard Andrew Platek, and centers Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley.
North Carolina is also waiting the decision of 2017 five-star small forward Kevin Knox. The elite 6-8 prospect is choosing between Duke, Florida State, Kentucky, Missouri and UNC. He is expected to announced sometime between Thursday and Sunday of this week.
SIX HEELS GO IN NFL DRAFT
It was a big weekend for the North Carolina football program as six Tar Heels heard their named called over the course of the 2017 NFL draft.
The big news came Thursday night when the Chicago Bears traded up from the No. 3 pick to No. 2 to take UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky. In moving in position to get Trubisky, the Bears swapped the No. 3 pick and gave up their No. 67 overall and No. 111 overall picks in 2017 along with their third-round pick in 2018 to the San Francisco 49ers.
Overall, the Tar Heels had five offensive players and one defensive player taken. As of Tuesday afternoon four additional players had been picked up as undrafted free agents.
Here’s a rundown of UNC draft picks and free-agent signings:
• QB Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears, 2nd overall, first round
• DT Nazair Jones, Seattle Seahawks, 102nd, third round
• WR Mack Hollins, Philadelphia Eagles, 118th, fourth round
• WR Ryan Switzer, Dallas Cowboys, 133rd, fourth round
• RB T.J. Logan, Arizona Cardinals, 179th, fifth round
• CB Des Lawrence, Detroit Lions, undrafted free agent
• C Lucas Crowley, Arizona Cardinals, undrafted free agent
• WR Bug Howard, Indianapolis Colts, undrafted free agent
• K Nick Weiler, Jacksonville Jaguars, undrafted free agent
UNC LANDS BIG TIME IN-STATE COMMIT
On Monday, the Tar Heels got more good news when 247Sports Composite four-star linebacker Payton Wilson committed to North Carolina. The Hillsborough Orange High junior is ranked as the No. 2 outside linebacker.
A 6-4, 225-pound prospect and North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A champion wrestler, Wilson picked the Tar Heels over a top group that included Clemson, Ohio State and Virginia and offers from Alabama, Georgia, Notre Dame, Stanford, Penn State, Auburn, Wisconsin and more.
The Tar Heels now have three commits for the 2018 class. Wilson joins wide receiver Dyami Brown and offensive lineman Avery Jones — all three players are four-star prospects from North Carolina.
Ross Martin covers North Carolina basketball, football and recruiting for 247Sports.com and CBS Sports. Check out more of his work at northcarolina.247sports.com.