We have been waiting a long time for Marcus Paige to transition into the point guard that he was recruited to be. There were tons of turnover issues, lack of execution scoring on the offensive end and no leadership at his position to learn from. Not all of that is his fault necessarily, but it seems that were are finally starting to see the Marcus Paige that ESPN ranked #1 among all point guards coming out of high school. In his last couple of games, Paige is averaging 9 ppg game and 4.5 rpg which are improved on his season totals thus far. The youngster really seems to understand more and more how the flow of the game works and when to take his chances.
Paige’s main disadvantage coming into this season was that he was expected to not only replace, but emulate Kendall Marshall and even Ty Lawson to a certain extent as a true freshman. That’s a lot of added pressure to take on, but he’s really done a nice job of taking it all in stride (much better than Larry Drew II). The catch for Paige though, is that if North Carolina really wants to make noise at the end of the season, then he’ll have to have a similar impact because his predecessors really made names for themselves as freshmen.
It’s pretty clear that Marcus is buying into Coach Williams defensive philosophy. In my mind, that’s really what’s allowed him to transition into a consistently productive player. In the fast paced scheme that North Carolina likes to run, defense is what creates the opportunity. It’s been fun to watch Paige really make sure he denies passes on the perimeter and fight his way through screens to prevent open shots and open drives towards the basket. As he gets faster and stronger that side of his game will only continue to improve and we’ll see Marcus lead the break a lot more often.
His added intensity on the defensive end only helps his already established offensive game. We knew Marcus was a scorer coming out of high school, but we’ve only really seen flashes at this point. Until now. We’ve seen the past couple of games that his jump shot has begun to really take shape. He’s been able to make space for himself behind the arc and knock down big shots. If he can continue to show that he’s capable of making those shots game in and game out it will really open up opportunities to get guys like PJ Hairston and Reggie Bullock open looks as well. His ability to penetrate has improved as well as he’s been able to make some pretty Marshall like passes to his teammates cutting towards the cup. All the dimensions have been there for Paige offensively, they just needed to be developed. It seems like all his hard work in practice is really beginning to pay off.
Marcus was never intended to be a project as a recruit and was always thought to be an immediate impact freshman. It’s been more of a process that most of us had anticipated, but I can safely say that if this is the type of progression we can expect from Marcus the rest of his career, then it was well worth the wait.