College Sports

What Justin Jackson taught Joel Berry at UNC, and how it could help both in the NBA

Joel Berry on Justin Jackson and North Carolina's basketball brotherhood

Joel Berry discusses his connections to the Sacramento Kings after his pre-draft workout with the team Friday, May 25. Berry played with Justin Jackson on the Tar Heels’ 2017 NCAA Championship team.
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Joel Berry discusses his connections to the Sacramento Kings after his pre-draft workout with the team Friday, May 25. Berry played with Justin Jackson on the Tar Heels’ 2017 NCAA Championship team.

If Joel Berry needed any advice on what to expect for his pre-draft workout with the Kings, he had access to insight from an insider.

Justin Jackson, one of Sacramento's three first-round draft picks last year, was Berry's teammate on North Carolina's 2017 NCAA championship team.

Berry was among six players working out for the Kings on Friday at Golden 1 Center. He'd already visited Minnesota, Brooklyn and Detroit for workouts.

The 6-foot guard averaged 17.1 points last season. While Jackson was a lock to be drafted in the first round last year, Berry is projected as a second-round pick, or could go undrafted.

Berry, however, said he would do his best and control his part in the process. Having Jackson as a resource helps, he said.

"He's back trying to finish up school, so that's great for him," Berry said. "But I've heard he's doing a great job here and he's doing a pretty good job. It's just good to see a guy I played with being able to make it to this next level."

Jackson, who was studying exercise and sport science, had his struggles as a rookie, averaging 6.7 points and shooting 44.2 percent, 30.8 percent on 3-pointers.

Berry said Jackson's work ethic is what propelled him to great heights at North Carolina, including 2017 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year honors.

Jackson also said he started slow at North Carolina and improved a lot, which is a reason why he wasn't down on himself when he struggled with the Kings.

"I was always in the gym and anytime I'd walk in there, Justin was already in a full sweat, working out," Berry said. "That year, his last year, he dedicated a lot of time in the summer to working on his game and even during the season, he spent a lot of time in the gym. And that's what you have to do if you want to be the player that you want to be and a high-level player, and that's one thing that I saw from him. I would always try to beat him there, but it's like I couldn't."

Berry has workouts scheduled with Orlando and Denver. He said one of his biggest challenges is ensuring he takes care of his body with the travel schedule.

But he has the benefit of advice from Jackson and the many former Tar Heels – Kings forward Vince Carter is also a UNC alum – who have made it to the NBA.

"The great thing about being at Carolina is we have a lot of alumni who come back and we get a chance over the summer to talk to them and pick their brains and see what they did during the process and what they're still doing to this day being in the NBA," Berry said. "With the brotherhood that we have of alumni coming back, it's kind of easy to know what to expect."

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