UNC Basketball Player Preview: Marcus Paige


Mar 20, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Marcus Paige (5) speaks to the media during a press conference before the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina Tar Heels guard, Marcus Paige, begins his junior season against the North Carolina Central Eagles on November 14. After being named to the preseason All-American team by the Associated Press, there are high expectations for Carolina’s leading scorer after his dynamic 2013-2014 sophomore campaign.

The Tar Heels are ranked sixth in the preseason AP poll, and with the addition of a talented incoming freshman class, Tar Heel nation will be looking to head coach, Roy Williams, to lead this team to consistent success and a Final Four appearance at minimum. However, as Marcus Paige has taken complete control of the leadership role on this team, it will be ultimately up to him to dictate how the 2014-2015 season goes for the Heels.

As freshman, Joel Berry, and sophomore, Nate Britt, will be most likely to split time at the point guard position, Paige will be able to take complete advantage of his off-the-ball movements and scoring abilities. This trend began last season, but because of the lack of a secondary scoring threat, Paige was often bottled up by  opposing defenses in close-game situations. Berry along with fellow freshmen Theo Pinson and Justin Jackson will provide scoring from the wings, meanwhile, juniors, Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto, and sophomore, Kennedy Meeks, will provide a much-improved interior threat to opposing team defenses. In addition, Paige played the most minutes among Tar Heel players last season, playing a total of 1,211 minutes in 34 games. Now surrounded by a much more talented team, Paige will be able to avoid any fatigue late in games, and worry less about getting himself in foul trouble.

During the 2013-2014 season, the Tar Heels struggled primarily in two aspects of the game: free throw shooting and 3-point shooting. Marcus Paige was by far the best on the squad when it came to both of those skills. In fact, he led the ACC in both free throw percentage (.877) and 3-point field goal percentage (.389). While these stats explain what he could do on paper, by watching Paige during the game, one could understand how he can have such a great effect on any game the moment he steps on the court. For example, Paige’s heroics in the second half and overtime of last season’s game at N.C. State were things of UNC legend:

It is Paige’s aggressiveness on offense and poise on defense that makes him the undisputed leader of the latest, talent-loaded, Tar Heel team put together by Roy Williams. Whether it be slashing to the basket to score, or shaking free to let a perimeter shot off, Paige is a terror to opposing teams. Now surrounded by a quality supporting cast, Paige’s points will only get easier to obtain, and the Tar Heels will be able to overcome their scoring troubles from a year ago.

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During ACC Media Day last week, Paige understood the Tar Heels preseason ACC ranking of second in the conference, citing a much improved team heading into this season. However, Paige stated the team’s goals are far greater than that. Paige made it clear that the Tar Heels “have a goal to finish higher” than they have been projected. This would mean, of course, the Heels having beat the projected first-place team, Duke, about which Paige smiled and told reporters to “read between the lines on that one.”

Twitter users can follow the leader of the Tar Heel cause @marcuspaige, and get to know more of the entertaining man behind the beautiful lefty stroke.

H/t: Inside Carolina for Paige Presser Video