It was announced on Monday that North Carolina point guard Joel Berry II will miss approximately four weeks due to a broken bone in his right hand. This will likely cause him to miss UNC’s first three games of the season against Northern Iowa, Bucknell, and Stanford, respectively.
This is undoubtedly a big blow for the Tar Heels, as Berry is expected to be one of the best players in the country this season. The reigning Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four is coming off a season in which he averaged 14.7 PPG and 3.6 PPG, and is going to take on an increased role this year. ESPN named Berry as a 2017-18 Preseason First Team All-American, and he was named to the Cousy award watch list last week.
This marks the the third straight year that Carolina has been struck with a significant preseason injury to a key player. In 2015, Marcus Paige also dealt with a hand injury that sidelined him for a month. In 2016, Theo Pinson broke his foot, causing him to miss until January. Fortunately, Berry’s injury is not as severe as Paige’s or Pinson’s.
As bleak as this situation may look for UNC, there is a silver lining. Carolina has outstanding depth at the guard position, something that will show during Berry’s absence.
The two most likely candidates to replace Berry in the starting lineup are freshman Jalek Felton and Seventh Woods. Both are talented players who will benefit from the increase in minutes they will receive. The experience that Felton and woods will gain is invaluable and could help the Tar Heels out in a big way down the stretch of the 2017-18 season.
UNC kicks off the season on Nov. 10 against Northern Iowa.
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