The Great Joel Berry Ankle Watch of 2017 continued on Thursday, and with some encouraging news for North Carolina: Berry said his right ankle, which he twisted in the first round of the NCAA tournament, “feels pretty good.”
It did not feel good toward the end of the Tar Heels’ 72-65 victory against Arkansas in the second round of the tournament. Berry said then that his pain medication began wearing off in that game. The junior guard wore a protective boot when the Tar Heels returned from Greenville, S.C.
By Thursday, though, the boot was gone and Berry practiced in full. UNC, the top seed in the South region, plays No. 4 Butler on Friday night at FedEx Forum. It sounded on Thursday like the Tar Heels will have the full services of Berry, the team’s second-leading scorer.
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“I’m almost close to 100 percent,” Berry said.
The condition of his ankle was a popular topic on Thursday, when UNC arrived at the arena for a shootaround and a round of media interviews. When the Tar Heels locker room opened to reporters, a crowd quickly gathered around Berry when he walked in.
How many questions had he been asked about his ankle?
“A lot,” Berry said, smiling. “It’s expected. I mean, it’s a big thing, especially with the history that coach has had with his point guards and the injuries and stuff. So I expect it, but it kind of gets a little annoying.”
Berry was referencing the injury history that derailed the Tar Heels in 2012, when Kendall Marshall, then the UNC point guard, suffered a broken wrist during a round of 32 victory against Creighton. In 2009, when UNC won the national championship, the Tar Heels entered the postseason with concerns about Ty Lawson’s foot.
“I feel better off of the medicine,” Berry said. “Last week, I was taking a lot of medicine just to try to get the pain to go away, and so throughout the day, I was just taking some strong meds and I think that’s what helped me. Now, I’ve only been taking small doses of Tylenol. And without it, I feel pretty good.”