TOMS RIVER – As a ninth-grader entering Toms River High School South in the fall of 2011, Tymere Berry was working under the assumption that when it came time for college, basketball would win out over football.
Four years later, those plans have changed.
Berry, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound dual-threat quarterback turned into one of the Shore Conference’s most-electrifying players over the last three years, finishing his senior season with 1,257 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, plus another 376 yards and seven touchdowns through the air. He currently holds offers from Monmouth University and the United State Military Academy. His future is rooted in football.
However, basketball never stopped being one of his main loves and while the football end of things is taking up some of his time as National Signing Day nears, so does basketball season, which gets going Friday across New Jersey. Football may be the future, but Berry isn’t ready to give up basketball yet.
“I just want to show people that I’m not just about football, I’m versatile and I can do a lot of things on the basketball court,” Berry told the Asbury Park Press Monday morning at the WOBM Christmas Classic Tip-Off Brunch, where the Indians received the No. 9 seed in the 16-team event. “That sport has been a true love for me just like football has been. I feel like I get to show my aggressive side when I’m playing basketball just like football.”
After thinking basketball was the future upon entering high school, Berry’s football exploits have arguably turned him into an underrated basketball player. As a junior, he averaged 17.6 points and 4.2 assists, while shooting 73.0 percent from the foul line. His play helped the Indians go 14-9 overall and a respectable 8-6 in Class A South, which figures to be strong again.
“We’re not a very big team, so we have to come out and use our speed to our advantage,” Berry said. “We just have to be aggressive because we’re not going to get many rebounds if we don’t stay aggressive, so we have to be aggressive at all times and use our speed to score easy baskets.”
Berry’s situation, a star in one sport trying to make his college choice in another sport, is not exclusive to him, but the fact that there are heavy local ties involved make it intriguing with National Signing Day coming on Feb. 4.
Monmouth, which just finished its first season in the Big South and is now working with 50 full scholarships, got involved early with Berry and has remained a part of the program’s wish list. Berry took an official visit to the West Long Branch campus the weekend of Dec. 5-7, but left without offering a non-binding verbal commitment as several other recruits did that weekend.
Part of the hang-up is simple. The Hawks would not have Berry play quarterback, which may or may not be a deal-breaker at this point. Berry said the staff told him his future at Monmouth would be as either a cornerback or a slot receiver. Meanwhile, not only did Army offer Berry as a quarterback, the Black Knights run the same flexbone, triple-option-oriented offense Toms River South does.
“I wouldn’t say I have to play quarterback in college, but it would be great if I got that opportunity, which Army offered me as,” Berry said. “If I went up to Army, they run the same offense I’ve been running, which is a good opportunity. I’m open to playing anything. Anything the team needs me to do.”
“Whichever position will get me on the field the fastest is what I’ll play.”
Berry’s original plan was to commit on National Signing Day. He said Monmouth applied some pressure committing-wise, so he now plans to commit in late January in an effort to get it over and done with before the controlled chaos that normally accompanies recruits on National Signing Day.
“It’s been a little overwhelming just because I’ve been getting calls at all times of the day from coaches, but Monmouth was a very good time,” Berry said. “They treated me well up there, but I still have other options and I want to take my time and see what other doors open up before I commit.”
Staff writer Josh Newman: email@example.com