Marcus Paige was sensational for the North Carolina Tar Heels during the 2013-2014 season. His smooth jump-shot and his ability to attack the hoop was a catalyst for the Tar Heels’ late-season surge. Last season, he emerged as one of the top guards in the country, but most importantly, Mr. Do-It-All is back for his junior season.
Coach Roy Williams rarely called Paige’s number to score as a freshman. His main responsibility was creating offense for the more experienced Tar Heels’ starters. Prior to Paige’s sophomore season, many assumed juniors James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston would carry majority of the scoring load.
But as we saw, Paige’s role evolved tremendously. He became the primary distributor and scorer on a Tar Heels squad that was in search of an identity. Night in and night out, the point guard lit up opponents, proving himself as a dangerous scoring option. He led the Tar Heels in minutes, free-throws percentage three-pointers made while averaging 17.5 points and 4.2 assists. Paige was the only player in the ACC to be in the top five in both PPG and APG.
Despite being somewhat undersized in-built, the 6’1” 175lb lefty can pull up for three and mid-range with contested defense (0.44 FG%). And when defenses decide to play him tight due to his shot making ability, he has the ability to dribble penetrate and create offense for his teammates (1.96 Assist to Turnover Ratio). ACC coaches will literally have to pick their poison on deciding how to cover Paige defensively. Tar Heels fans have a lot to look forward to next season. Paige has the court vision and speed to manage the realms of Williams’ signature fast break offense. At first glance, he may not look too athletic, but there weren’t too many guards that could stay in front of Paige last season. He led the ACC in the FT% while being one of the top point guards in free throw attempts per game.
One of the downfalls of the Tar Heels’ performance last season was the lack of offense produced by role players. The departure of Leslie McDonald and NBA-bound James Michael McAdoo will place more responsibility on Paige. But with their departure, there will be plenty of opportunities for freshmen Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson. Jackson and Pinson are both All American wing recruits who are promising offensive weapons. They have the skill set to produce day one at Chapel Hill. Don’t forget to throw in key returners J.P. Tokoto, Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks. Paige will have an array of options to distribute the ball to; expect Paige to drop more dimes than Coinstar.
Unlike last season, Paige will have a chance to show that he can be a floor general for a potential national contender. It was only a few seasons ago when fellow UNC point guard Kendall Marshall nearly led the nation in APG. Paige’s APG may not be as high, but the role he will play for the Tar Heels will be just as important. With Paige’s guard play, the Tar Heels have a good enough chance as any team to compete for an ACC and national title. All eyes will be on him this upcoming season. He is in a great position to be a strong preseason candidate for the Naismith Men’s College Player of the Year. We have yet to see the best of Mr. Marcus Paige.