These days, North Carolina point guard Joel Berry is spending a lot of time receiving treatment, a lot of time in the rehabilitation pool, a lot of time doing “anything that you can think of when it comes to recovery,” he said here on Thursday.
There's no way to know how his ankles might feel on Saturday, when the Tar Heels play against Oregon in a national semifinal of the Final Four. There's no way to know how effective Berry might be. He knows this much, at least:
“Even if I'm not 100 percent, I'm still playing,” Berry said. “It's only two games left on the season. And I'm not going to sit 'em out. But I think when we get toward Saturday, I should be close.”
Berry sprained his right ankle, which he also sprained in early December, during a victory against Texas Southern in the first round of the NCAA tournament. He injured that same ankle, again, in practice the day before the Tar Heels' victory against Kentucky in the South Regional championship.
Never miss a local story.
And then, five minutes into that game, he went up for a layup and twisted his left ankle. Another sprain.
Berry said here on Thursday that his left ankle has been bothering him more than the right, because the left ankle injury is more recent. Neither one of his ankles is pain free, though Berry said he's feeling “a lot better” than he was earlier in the week, after the victory against Kentucky.
Berry labored through that game and afterward said he was in “a lot of pain.” He was in better spirits -- and far less pain -- on Thursday, when UNC went through a practice at University of Phoenix Stadium.
“The bruising has gone away,” he said. “I can run on it now. I can do some more stuff than what I could a couple of days ago.”
Berry still hasn't gone through a full practice, though, and that's the priority now, coach Roy Williams said. He said Berry went through a total of about 14 minutes of practice on Thursday – and throughout it all he only did half-court work.
Berry, though, wanted to do more. Williams said Berry grew frustrated at one point in practice because the staff was limiting him to half-court work. Williams appreciated Berry's competitiveness, his insistence that he be allowed to push himself further.
“There's times you have to temper it,” Williams said of Berry's competitive side. “I mean he was mad because I wouldn't let him do anything in practice today in full court. And I went over and I said: ‘Oh, you're mad, huh?’ That's good.”
Outside of the half-court drills he did, Berry said he kept himself busy on the sideline, “trying to run up and down, trying to just get the feeling back of getting up and down the court.”
He said Friday would be “a big day for me.” He's expecting to go through a full practice, which is perhaps the final step in his rehab process before Saturday.