Joel Berry II

Apopka High School has a rich sporting history, with some notable alums leaving an indelible imprint on their respective sports. Some of Apopka’s own include the now-retired Warren Sapp, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame; ex-race car driver Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, a pioneer in NASCAR; and ace pitcher Zach Greinke, a former Cy Young winner and five-time Gold Glove recipient. Curiously, no Blue Darter or Apopka resident has made it big in professional basketball, specifically in the biggest and best league of them all: the NBA.

The closest, arguably, is Joel Berry II, who won an NCAA championship with North Carolina in 2017. Berry, according to The New York Times review of that game, scored 22 points in a sloppy championship game, which the Tar Heels won thanks to a telling 8-0 run in the end. Two years later, North Carolina remains relevant, and very much still a title contender pegged by bwin Basketball as currently 8th favorites to win March Madness. Taking the main man baton from Berry has been Nassir Little, who will likely be a lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft. Berry, on the other hand, went undrafted in last year’s draft, then was signed and eventually waived by the Los Angeles Lakers. Now, the unflappable playmaker from Apopka is facing an uncertain basketball future.

All is not lost for Berry, though. He has plenty of options, with basketball destinations available in virtually every country. One such country is the UK, where basketball is enjoying a spike in popularity. An influx of talent in the UK’s professional basketball leagues will likely keep interest in basketball growing, and that makes playing there an enticing possibility. In this regard, the best bet is the British Basketball League, or BBL, as it allows teams to sign a maximum of three non-British players.

Joe Chealey

Should Berry (and other basketball players like him) want to try his luck in the BBL, the first step would be to, ironically enough, send his résumé to any of the league’s 12 teams, whose contact details are available on the BBL’s official website. He would then have to hope that a team wants to sign him to their roster. Berry’s NCAA pedigree and his undeniable talent would no doubt see him snapped up quickly. Once a team takes interest in Berry, they will help him secure the necessary work permit to play in the UK. He’ll have to meet certain criteria, obviously, which can be found on the British immigration website. Everything else will be taken care of by the team, too, including accommodation.

Once everything’s ironed out, all that’s left is basketball. That’s why former Blue Darter Joe Chealey ought to explore playing in the BBL, too. The 6’3 Chealey played for the Charlotte Hornets in the summer league last year, parlaying his stint into a training camp invite. He now has a two-way contract, which means he’ll split time with the Hornets and their G League affiliate, the Greensboro Swarm. Now, in case things don’t pan out for Chealey and his NBA dreams, the 12 teams in the BBL are only an e-mail away. That, fortunately, is an option available to every one of Apopka’s basketball-loving alums who want to play professional hoops for a living.

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