Marcus Paige is undoubtedly the leader of the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team in the 2014-15 season. The junior guard announced his intentions to stay in Chapel Hill about a month ago and will be the most experienced, skilled, and deserving player to be pegged as the leader for Roy Williams. The season he just had didn’t show many holes in his game, but any great player is always looking for ways to improve. Here are three things I would like to see the dynamic guard from Marion, Iowa improve upon for his junior campaign.
#1 – Take ownership as the leader.
There should be no question in that locker room who the the leader is. Paige needs to take pride in the fact that this team is going to go as far as he is willing to take them. He has to get in the face of players going through the motions in drills, being late, or not playing as hard as they can all the time. The Heels are going to have to replace 25 points per game between Leslie McDonald and James Michael McAdoo having played their final games as Tar Heels. As good as Paige is, the team will need a lot of production from the supporting cast, which has potential for to an excellent group. Paige has to be the one to lead by example for this team to be a national championship contender.
#2 – “Second-Half Marcus” must become “All Day Marcus”
There can be no remnants of the nickname “Second-Half Marcus” for No. 1 on this list to become true. He doesn’t need to jack up 20 shots in the first half every game, but he does need to look to be a killer on the floor from the opening tip. It sounds greedy that a guy who scores the bulk of his points in the final ten minutes of the game isn’t being aggressive enough. His responsibility now is to not only make sure he plays well for the whole 40 minutes, but so the other players on the floor with him play well for 40 minutes. He knows he’s a big-time player now and it’s time to prove it from buzzer to buzzer.
#3 – Teach and Trust
Nate Britt’s development could mean Paige might slide over to the 2-spot in the Tar Heels starting five. Whether or not that’s the case, Paige needs to help not only Britt, but all the young players on the roster. It’s no secret that Roy Williams’ system isn’t something that comes easy to the point guards running it. Freshman don’t come in and understand it right away and Paige was no exception. Now that he is clear on it, he needs to be that extension of Coach Williams and help the young players develop to make the Tar Heels a deeper team. As he teaches the young players the nuances of the style of game they’ll be playing, he’s got to trust them. You can never underestimate the power you give someone by believing in them.
Marcus Paige has improved statistically across the board in all the important categories and does a lot of great things on the floor that you can’t record. His minutes went up and turnovers went down. Free throw, three-point, and field goal percentages all improved, points more than doubled, and he played all year without a future NBA first round pick, P.J. Hairston, as a running partner on the wing. The biggest developments Paige needs to make now involve leadership and mental toughness. He will be one of the best players in college basketball next season and hopefully he’s a leader in Chapel Hill.