basketball Edit

Berry ready to take his shot at Northwestern

Ty Berry is lucky, in a way.

During this strange time of quarantining, when all of America is keeping their social distance and staying at home to contain the deadly spread of the coronavirus, Berry can still practice his craft, alone, in the driveway, with nothing but a basketball and a hoop.

The four-star 2020 Northwestern guard signee says he spends most of his time in the house, completing his school e-learning assignments, lifting weights in the basement or playing Call of Duty. Just about the only thing he does outside is shoot. A lot.

Every single day, Berry is out in the driveway, putting up jumper after jumper. He works on other parts of his game, too, like ballhandling, but Berry knows where his bread his buttered. So he continues to perfect the stroke that was responsible for hitting almost 40% of his 3-pointers last season.

Ask Berry what his strength is as a player and he doesn't hesitate. "Shooting," he says.

And while he admits that he certainly benefited from some natural, innate ability to shoot a basketball, he says that the secret to his success is simple.

"Repetition," he says. "Doing the same thing over-and-over."

When you think about it, there is no better time than now to do something repetitive. There isn't much going on in the world to distract him, so Berry just continues to shoot, one shot after another, bringing next season closer to him with every release.

In moving from Sunrise Christian to Northwestern, Berry is going from the penthouse condo to a basement apartment.

Sunrise finished its season 22-3 and ranked fifth in the nation by ESPN. The Wildcats, meanwhile, were last in the Big Ten and posted the program's worst mark (8-23) in 20 seasons.

But Berry isn't as concerned about the past as he is the future. He doesn't see a Wildcat team that won just three of 20 league games. He sees a talented but inexperienced team that took its lumps and is poised to make a dramatic improvement next season.

'I know what we have coming in next year," said Berry. "They were just young (last season). Every game they played, it seemed, they'd be up and then lose it at the end. They were so close. But all those young guys will have more experience next year."

His point is valid. Northwestern has a young core of rising juniors Miller Kopp and Pete Nance, and sophomores-to-be Robbie Beran, Boo Buie, Jared Jones and Ryan Young. Berry and three-star 7-footer Matt Nicholson will arrive as freshmen next season, William & Mary transfer Chase Audige will be eligible to play after sitting out a year, and captain Anthony Gaines will return after missing 20 games due to injury.

And while the Wildcats came up short again and again last year -- often while painfully blowing late leads -- their effort never wavered, and they won two of their last three regular-season games to close out the year on something of a high note.

That's something that Berry noticed.

"Coach (Chris) Collins just talked to me (during the season) about staying positive," he said. "You see how young they are. We're going to be a problem in the Big Ten,"

Berry's scoring numbers are modest for a high-major conference recruit. He averaged just 11.6 points per game for Sunrise.

But there are reasons for that. The Buffaloes had a herd of high-major talents, with a dozen players who are ranked as either three- or four-stars by Rivals in the 2020, 2021 and 2022 classes. So Berry was never the focal point of the offense.

In Berry's 2020 class alone, there are four SCA players committed to college programs (Berry to Northwestern, Tyrin Lawrence to Vanderbilt, Jayden Stone to Grand Canyon and Mykell Robinson to North Texas). A couple more seniors (Dillon Jones and Jeremiah Oden) have offers but have yet to make their college choices.

But Berry is the highest ranked prospect of that senior class. He is the lone four-star prospect and is ranked as the No. 109 player in the country by Rivals.

Rivals' national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi, a fellow Kansan, has watched Berry's development over the years and taken notice of his improvement during his senior season.

Berry jumped 12 spots in the last Rivals ranking release, and Bossi identified him last week as one of the top 10 "value adds" in the country, players who will come in with little hype but be able to make a big impact.

"Capable of playing at the one or the two, Berry has gotten much more serious about his game, strength and effort," said Bossi. "He can shoot from deep, understands how to play in structure and is a very important piece moving forward in Evanston."

Berry is a classic combo guard who can play either on or off the ball. He played both point and shooting guard for Sunrise and his AAU club, KC Run GMC, where, incidentally, he was teammates with four-star guard Tamar Bates, one of Northwestern's top targets for the 2021 class.

Besides shooting, Berry says that he also excels at "seeing the floor and getting others involved." He feels like ballhandling is the skill he most needs to improve as he prepares for the rigors of Big Ten play.

Beyond his skills, though, Berry brings another dimension to the Wildcats: joy. Several observers say that you can see Berry's love for the game in the way that he plays. He's not particularly effusive when talking with the media, but his personality comes out in his game.

That's how Berry thinks he can contribute right away for the Wildcats. He can bring that infectious enthusiasm and effort that comes from a player who loves being on the court.

"I'm going to give everything I've got every game," he said. "I love bringing energy and positivity."

Energy. Positivity. Scoring. It's difficult to think of three things this program needs more.