Berry wins another tournament MVP award
LAHAINA — After Joel Berry II made back-to-back shots with three minutes to go in Wednesday’s Maui Jim Maui Invitational title game, North Carolina fans at the Lahaina Civic Center began chanting “MVP, MVP!”
They got their wish, and the Tar Heels got the win, 71-56 over Wisconsin behind Berry’s 22-point performance.
“I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win,” Berry said. “I’m just getting lost in the game. … Getting the MVP of tournaments, I mean that’s all good, but at the end of the day I just want to win and get better as a team.”
Berry totaled 54 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists in three Maui games as the Tar Heels, No. 4 in The Associated Press rankings, improved to 7-0.
He’s starting this season in much the same way he finished the last one, when he was named MVP of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament and was chosen for the all-Final Four team — North Carolina finished as the NCAA runner-up.
Off the court, he’s growing into a team leader after the departure of senior Marcus Paige.
“I’m just trying to be more of a vocal leader,” Berry said. “It’s something I’ve been trying to work on. It’s a challenge for me ’cause I just try to lead by example.”
On a team that includes eight upperclassmen, however, Berry said he’s glad it’s “not all on me.”
“We also have other guys that can step up and say something to the other guys,” he said. “That’s the great thing about having a veteran team.”
Berry is averaging 16.3 points and 4.5 assists this season.
“I thought Joel Berry was just sensational,” North Carolina coach Roy Williams said. “He didn’t play well last Friday over in Honolulu (in a win over Hawaii), and that’s the only game this year he hasn’t played super. But I thought tonight he was maybe better than anytime I’ve seen him, doing everything.”
Berry said North Carolina’s fourth Maui title will give the team “a lot of confidence going in, especially the way we got after it on the defensive end.”
“We have a chip on our shoulder and we’re going to continue to get better as a team as the year goes on,” Berry said. “We’re playing good right now, but I think we still can get better.”
Berry’s teammate Kennedy Meeks was named to the all-tournament team, along with Connecticut’s Jalen Adams, who totaled 86 points and 22 assists, both tops in this year’s tournament, Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, Oklahoma State’s Jawun Evans and Chaminade’s Rohndell Goodwin.
* Colleen Uechi is at email@example.com.
Maui invitational Most Valuable Players
2016–Joel Berry II, North Carolina
2015–Frank Mason III and Wayne Selden Jr., Kansas
2014–Stanley Johnson, Arizona
2013–C.J. Fair, Syracuse
2012–Brandon Paul, Illinois
2011–Ryan Kelly, Duke
2010–Kemba Walker, Connecticut
2009–Matt Bouldin and Steven Gray, Gonzaga
2008–Ty Lawson, North Carolina
2007–Kyle Singler, Duke
2006–Darren Collison, UCLA
2005–Adam Morrison, Gonzaga
2004–Raymond Felton, North Carolina
2003–Keith Waleskowski, Dayton
2002–Bracey Wright, Indiana
2001–Mike Dunleavy, Duke
2000–Michael Wright, Arizona
1999–Joseph Forte, North Caro-lina
1998–Jason Hart, Syracuse
1997–Steve Wojciechowski, Duke
1996–Raef LaFrentz, Kansas
1995–Kerry Kittles, Villanova
1994–Mario Bennett, Arizona St.
1993–Travis Ford, Kentucky
1992–Anfernee Hardaway, Memphis St., and Bobby Hurley, Duke
1991–George Gilmore, Chaminade
1990–Billy Owens, Syracuse
1989–Doug Smith, Missouri
1988–Glenn Rice, Michigan
1986–Will Perdue, Vanderbilt
1985–Dell Curry, Virginia Tech
1984–Patrick Langlois, Chaminade
Maui Invitational All-Tournament Team
Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina; Rohndell Goodwin, Chaminade; Jalen Adams, Connecticut; Jawun Evans, Oklahoma St.; Ethan Happ, Wisconsin.