Rhode Island landed another commitment on Friday with the addition of Scotland Campus guard Norance Tres Berry.
And before we get any further, yes, that is the same school where Abou Ousmane plays. Ousmane, of course, committed to the Rams a couple of weeks ago only to decommit after they landed pledges from the Mitchell twins.
The reality though, that is easily verified by a simple twitter search, is that Berry was always the primary target. The Rams offered him back in December and continued to pursue him throughout the course of the year.
Last month, that brought them to the National Prep Championship, to see Berry and his Scotland team play. At the time, the Rams were also still in search of frontcourt help and Ousmane had a very strong showing. Rhody offered him the next day, he committed a couple of weeks later, and the rest of the story is history.
Simultaneously though, Berry always remained a primary target for head coach David Cox and his staff, and now their perseverance has been rewarded.
First and foremost, his measurables are off the charts. Berry stands at 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-10 wingspan. A plus-seven wingspan is almost unheard of, even at the highest levels of basketball. The fact that he has equally big hands, a favorite measurable for NBA draft experts, only adds to his physical prowess. He’s also a well-rounded athlete.
While those physical tools speak to his long-term upside, the immediate ramifications are most often correlated to versatility, especially on the defensive end. Berry’s massive wingspan not only allows him to play and defend multiple positions, but it’s a huge asset when it comes to defending the ball, getting deflections, and being able to contest shots.
From a skill standpoint, Berry has made significant strides this season at Scotland. He arrived known primarily as a slasher and potential defender, but finished the year having evolved into a reliable shooting threat. He even showed some potential playing with the ball in his hands at times.
That’s not to say he’s a pure point guard by any stretch, but that he was able to play spot minutes at the position because of his ability to enter the ball and get the team into offense. The expansion of Berry’s skill-set only added to the versatility rooted in his body type as he became a threat to play and defend three different positions at the prep level.
The progression of Berry’s skill-set this year can be directly tied to his work-ethic and that leads to another important part of his evaluation – the intangibles. Berry has thus far shown the right mindset to capitalize on his tools.
He’s a worker who isn’t easily distracted by the self-promotion that many of his peers are doing in this day and age of social media. He plays hard and is committed to developing his game. Given the amount of upside he still has left to discover, that’s a crucial component of projecting his future.
Berry’s commitment provides the Rams with just the versatile guard they need to solidify their backcourt depth.
If Fatts Russell returns for his senior year after exploring the NBA Draft, the Rams will again have one of the most dynamic guards in the conference. Jeremy Carter-Sheppard, who sat out this year after the NCAA denied his transfer waiver for immediate eligibility, has played to rave reviews behind closed doors and is expected to be a considerable part of the Rams attack next season.
Berry will join Ishmael Leggett and Elijah Wood, two other incoming freshmen, in the perimeter rotation. Leggett is a combo-guard known for his grit and toughness while Wood is an ultra-versatile threat on the perimeter with the size of a wing but the playmaking ability of a guard.
Charlotte transfer Malik Martin is the final piece, although it remains to be seen if he’ll be eligible next season. If he is, he’ll provide a strong and physical two-way player who is both a lockdown defender and capable scorer.
So while the status of Russell and Martin may not be finalized in the near-future, the Rams have taken steps to secure the backcourt regardless and still have a scholarship left to utilize. In an ideal world, Russell and Martin would take the court together, and join Carter-Sheppard to form one of the Atlantic 10’s best backcourts while allowing the freshman trio of Leggett, Wood, and Berry the luxury of being brought along more slowly on a team that would be right back atop the league.
That’s beyond the coaching staff’s control at this point though, and what they’ve done, is built security regardless of what happens by assembling a deep group of multi-positional guards who will collectively offer three quality options at each of the three perimeter positions.