Asked at ACC basketball media day on Tuesday how Joel Berry broke a bone in his right hand, Theo Pinson broke into a smile.
“Ask Joel,” said Pinson, the North Carolina senior forward.
Pinson, who is one of Berry’s roommates, appeared to be on the verge of laughter. Indeed, the story of Berry’s injury turned out to be quite the tale: He endured a broken bone in his right hand, apparently, in what could be described as a freak video game accident.
Or, in layman’s terms: Berry slammed his hand into a door after suffering a video game defeat. Roy Williams, the UNC coach, recounted the story when he addressed reporters on Tuesday. Williams wasn’t sure what video game was at the root of Berry’s anger.
Berry had been playing with Pinson and one of UNC’s student managers, Williams said. When the game didn’t go Berry’s way, he “got up and punched the door,” Williams said. When he received the news, the coach was driving to Charlotte on Sunday to visit his youngest grandson.
“I said ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” Williams said. “Got off the phone with him, got on the phone with Joel, and Joel tells me, ‘Yeah, coach, it was just silly.’ He said, ‘I remember you telling me about somebody that hit the backboard support and broke their hand and couldn’t play in the tournament.’
“And I said, ‘Yeah, it really was effective. It made you change what you were doing.’ ”
Berry is expected to miss approximately four weeks from the time he suffered the injury. If he’s out for four weeks, and only for four weeks, he might only miss two games – the season-opener against Northern Iowa on Nov. 10, and a game against Bucknell on Nov. 15.
That Berry injured himself in such a “silly” way – to use his word – isn’t necessarily surprising given his competitiveness. Berry is known for his toughness and for his competitive spirit, which are attributes that served him well while he helped lead UNC to the national championship last April.
“He was extremely successful because he’s such a tough kid,” Williams said of Berry, who played through two injured ankles at the end of last season. “And winning is extremely important to him. He made a mistake here because winning is very important to him. And he’s so competitive and so silly.”
Williams said later, joking, that Berry’s injury has kept him up at night. Though it’s not necessarily a serious injury, it occurred on Berry’s shooting hand. Two years ago, former UNC point guard Marcus Paige suffered a similar injury to his non-shooting hand.
He missed UNC’s first six games, and Paige during the middle of that season labored through a miserable shooting slump. Berry is UNC’s most prolific returning perimeter shooter, and the Tar Heels will be especially reliant on his production.
In Berry’s absence, Williams will turn to Seventh Woods, a sophomore, or Jalek Felton, a freshman, to start at point guard. Williams said on Wednesday that Pinson, the versatile 6-6 senior, could also spend some time at point guard.
Berry, meanwhile, will continue to heal from his video-game-related injury. Williams could relate to it, in one respect.
“I did throw a ping-pong paddle through a window one time after losing a ping-pong game,” Williams said. “So what can I say to Joel?”