Joel Berry Looks Forward To Representing USA
Colorado Springs, Colo. • June 20, 2012
Following the 2011-12 season Joel Berry (Lake Highland H.S./Apopka, Fla.) became the first player in Florida history to be named the state’s Mr. Basketball as a sophomore. As a member of the 2012 USA FIBA U17 World Championship Team, Berry will achieve a more personal first as he prepares to travel outside the country for the first time.
Berry was named to the 12-man 2012 USA Basketball U17 National Team on Tuesday and will travel with the squad to the Canary Islands on Thursday to participate in practices a pair of exhibition games before departing to Kaunas, Lithuania, on June 26. At the FIBA U17 World Championship, which will be played June 29 through July 8, the U.S. will look to repeat its gold medal performance from the inaugural FIBA U17 World Championship in 2010.
“It will be something new to me,” Berry said of traveling abroad for the first time. “I’m going to just embrace everything and see how it feels. I’m looking forward to seeing something new.”
Berry’s trip overseas will be made even more special because he will be representing his country in the sport he loves, an opportunity that served as motivation as he prepared for the 2012 USA U17 training camp in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I’ve been working out hard all year with my AAU team to prepare for this, and I think that it is a great honor,” said Berry. “A lot of kids don’t get a chance to represent their country at this age, or anytime in life, so I think it’s a great opportunity.”
More than simply making his first international trip, Berry is looking forward to competing against some of the world’s best 17-and-under players in Lithuania. “I think I’ll have some butterflies, but once I get in the game and get in the flow, I’ll overcome it,” said Berry.
Berry also is looking forward to the FIBA U17 World Championship to get a taste of international basketball in case he decides to play outside the U.S. one day. “My dream is to make it to the NBA,” Berry said, “but if that doesn’t happen, then going out of the country and seeing overseas will help me in case I want to go play overseas basketball.”
In order to earn one of 12 roster spots and the opportunity to travel to Lithuania, Berry first had to compete against 28 of the nation’s elite 17-and-under players in training camp this past week.
“I just came out here playing my game, not trying to do anything extra,” he said. “The coaches made me come out of my comfort zone with being more vocal.”
In becoming Florida’s first sophomore Mr. Basketball, as well as winning the state’s Gatorade Boys Basketball Player of the Year honor, Berry averaged 23.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 3.1 assists to lead his team to the 2012 Florida Class 4A championship game and a 28-4 record. Berry scored 26 points in the state title game, but Lake Highland fell to Pine Crest High School. Despite having already won two prestigious awards as a sophomore, Berry is not satisfied.
“I can get better and keep on winning,” Berry explained on his goals for the remainder of his high school career. “I can try to be the first to win Mr. Basketball three times, and also win Gatorade again. My next goal is also to get national player of the year.”
Berry certainly hasn’t rested on his laurels. Before coming to Colorado Springs, he had been hard at work this summer with his personal coach, Cornell Rivers, often making as many as 3,000 shots a day in their sessions.
“We go four hours; two hours with defense and dribbling, and then two hours of just straight shooting. Standing shooting, shooting off the dribble, coming off the top (of the key), we hit all places on the court because you never know in a game where you’re going to be taking a shot from.”
When not spending time at work in the gym, Berry enjoys spending time with his family, which includes two older sisters as well as a younger set of twins.
“My family is real close. I have two sisters that are off in college and when they come back we try to get a lot of family bonding. I also go outside and teach my little brother what I know (about basketball) and hopefully he will end up being as good as me.”
Berry already has set the standard high, but hopes to add more accomplishments to his resume, starting with a gold medal. He will get that chance in just about two weeks at the U17 World Championship.