PG Marcus Paige will be one of, if not the most important player on North Carolinas roster next season. Kendall Marshall’s early departure made sure of that fact. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, there is no replacing Marshall, but if your going to try, Marcus Paige is the guy you want in his spot. The Tar Heels are going to be thin at the point again this season. Shooting guard Dexter Strickland is going to be his main backup with walk on Luke Davis as the emergency. It won’t be until Nate Britt’s 2013 arrival that the Heels have depth at the position. Paige was recently named second team All-American by ESPN.
Paige must produce, and I think he will.
Strengths: Paige, like Marshall, is a true floor general, a quarterback on the court. The 2012 Tar Heels will be very athletic and deep on the wings and will need someone who can distribute the ball quickly and find the open shooters. Paige is just the guy, watching him the way he keeps his head up almost the entire game is very similar to how Marshall operates.
A very capable scorer Paige averaged 28.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists for Lin-Mar High School this season while earning Iowa Player of the Year honors. He moves very well without the ball and is a terrific catch and jump shooter. Paige has a good release and is a reliable mid range shooter who’s added three point range to his game. His athleticism is not something to marvel at but he is very good at finishing at the rim.
Paige has a very high basketball IQ and attacks opposing defenses weaknesses. He excels at finding the open seam in the defense and creating for himself or his teammates.
Weaknesses: Not very quick or fast and needs to add strength, can be susceptible to the press. A left handed player, who’s not particularly strong with his right hand, but it’s not necessarily something I would call a weakness either. His athleticism is another thing he has in common with Marshall. He’s not going to dazzle you but he’ll get by.
Defensively he may be challenged against upper echelon talent. He has decent lateral movement but he’s going to have trouble keeping up with the quicker PGs in the country. He can make up for his lack of quickness if he can learn to stay in front of his player and not take unnecessary chances. It’s going to take a lot of work, his limitations weren’t nearly as exposed in Iowa HS basketball as they will be in the ACC, Paige has to get to work early.
The Verdict: Paige’s strengths far outweigh any of his weaknesses. Like a lot of players he needs a couple years in college for his body to catch up to his skill. His game needs some refinement, but what 17 year old’s doesn’t? (answer: Jabari Parker?). Paige will have an advantage that no freshman has had in a while. A starting spot and a ton of minutes right away (though either Joel James or Brice Johnson is also likely to start, Paige will have a larger role). A lot of James Michael McAdoo and PJ Hairston’s struggles this past season in my view was due to a lack of consistent playing time. Neither player got into any sort of rhythm and it’s not easy to break out of a slump when your short on opportunities.
Paige will have his ups and downs as a freshman leading a big time program. As the best PG in the class, he gives Carolina the best chance of succeeding. I don’t think it will take long for Paige to settle down and adjust to the collegiate level. His mature play seems destined to thrive at each level as his game grows. The thing that worries me most about Paige is whether or not he’ll be able to defend well enough, especially early in the season. He needs to bulk up and work hard at his defensive footwork and positioning. Like all freshman, Paige will be a work in progress, I think we’re in for a special journey in 2012 with a new PG at the helm of the Carolina Tar Heels.
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