Tar Heel fans have gotten pretty spoiled over the last few years in the point guard realm, fortunate to have rock star point guards such as the assist king, Kendall Marshall and the quickest man with a basketball alive, Ty Lawson. So it is very hard not to give an opinion of Marcus Paige, in his young college career, that is not in comparison to point guards of UNC’s past and the personnel that was present. So let’s just go ahead and call it what it is.
Not to take away anything that Marshall accomplished as a Tar Heel, but he was handed a team that had all the other components in place that was primed for a Final Four run. When Larry Drew II did not live up to UNC standards, Marshall stepped in and took over the reins. He had a dominant center in Tyler Zeller, an outstanding defensive presence down low in John Henson, the ice-cold Black Falcon hanging out and the wing and a slashing Dexter Strickland off to the other wing. With a line-up like that, in many cases, the guys surrounding a point guard can make him look good. There is no doubt that Marshall landed in a phenomenal situation.
Lawson came into a similar situation. Lawson’s freshman year, more of a combo guard in Bobby Frasor was due to run the point position for the Heels. Lawson’s natural speed and ability moved him up the depth chart relatively quickly. Lawson came into a pretty good situation himself inheriting the hardest working man in basketball, some of you may have heard of him, Tyler Hansbrough. The lights out shooting Wayne Ellington and clutch Danny Green were also on Lawson’s court.
So Marshall and Lawson both had the pieces around them to succeed immediately. Does Paige have what he needs in order to live up to the expectations that comes along with playing basketball at UNC? Paige will have to come out more dominant in ACC play in order to satisfy the fans. Paige has a lot of talent placed around him but much of the talent is young and inexperienced. The only senior on the team that gets considerable playing time is Strickland. As far as the point guard position is concerned, Strickland is leading the team in assists at 4.4 a game, compared to that of Paige’s 3.8 a game. No one on the team is averaging 10 points or more a game with a field goal percentage of 50% or better. A huge thing about assists is that it’s not always the passer’s fault. The passer could make a tremendous pass to another player who is wide open for a dunk and they hit the back of the rim. Or if a player has an outstanding shooter on the wing, many assists can be made via 3-pointers. The bottom line is that Roy Williams needs to give Paige more of an opportunity though because he can become a great point guard.
UNC’s first ACC game is against Virginia on January 6th. The only thing that merits concern with Paige is his defense. The rest of his game is developing and molding with the rest of the team. It just takes time. UNC has been known not only to be led by a stellar point guard but also to get wrecked by an opposing point guard. The ACC has some great PGs such as NC State’s Lorenzo Brown or Virginia Tech’s Erick Green. Strickland may step in to guard these types of players, but as mentioned before, Strickland is a senior. Paige needs to step up his game defensively to be truly ready for ACC play.