UNC in the NBA: Marcus Paige, Justin Jackson back on the court together

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 02: Justin Jackson
HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 02: Justin Jackson /

Marcus Paige goes off against Justin Jackson, Bighorns

Former North Carolina running mates Marcus Paige and Justin Jackson met on the basketball court on Friday night in Greensboro. But on this occasion, unlike their time spent together in Chapel Hill, they were on opposing teams.

Paige, playing with the Greensboro Swarm as part of a two-way contract that he signed with the Charlotte Hornets, welcomed Jackson and the Reno Bighorns to town.

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Paige has spent the majority of his season in the G-League, but Jackson is just four games into his first assignment with the Sacramento Kings’ G-League affiliate. The 2017 first round draft pick was sent to Reno after struggling to get into the Kings’ rotation over the final two weeks of November.

After recording 25 or more minutes in five consecutive games, Jackson appeared in just three of the team’s next seven contests and played a total of 17 minutes. It was then that the Sacramento coaching staff made the move that put Jackson in the G-League just six weeks into his rookie season.

"“To be honest, I’m not totally sure what changed,” Jackson told the Winston-Salem Journal. “It was the coach’s decision, so I accepted it and continued to work hard at getting better. It’s great to get a lot of minutes, a lot of reps, but in my mind, (the G-League) not the right fit for me because I feel like I should be in the NBA.”“But this is where the organizations wanted me to go right now,” Jackson continued. “I’m not going to complain. I’m going to work as hard as I can and take advantage of the minutes and opportunities I have in the G-League.”"

In his four games with the Bighorns, Jackson is averaging better than 17 points and five rebounds per game. There’s no telling how long he’ll be with the team, but given the Kings’ recent change in scheme that resulted in Vince Carter’s increased playing time off the bench and Jackson’s reassignment, chances are fairly decent that it could be an extended period of time.

Paige, on the other hand, has played in 14 G-League games this season, as opposed to just one appearance with the Hornets. Dissimilar to his time in the NBA, Paige has started and played the majority of his team’s minutes in G-League action this season.

Paige is playing nearly 33 minutes a night and averaging 15.4 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game for the Swarm. He’s hitting 43 percent of his shots from the floor, including 37 percent from three-point range and 92 percent from the free throw line.

On Friday night, it was Paige and the Swarm that got the best of Jackson and the Bighorns. The former North Carolina point guard and All-American scored a career-high 32 points, leading Charlotte to a 132-126 victory over Reno.

During the shooting barrage, Paige hit 12-of-15 shots, including a stellar performance from three-point range that saw him knock down eight of his nine attempts. He also recorded three assists, three steals and two rebounds in 31 minutes of play.

On the other side, Jackson scored 15 points of 6-of-17 shooting to go along with four rebounds and three assists. Jackson struggled from three-point range, hitting just one of his six attempts, but did connect on both free throws and committed only two turnovers in 32 minutes of play.

Next: Tyler Hansbrough and Gerald Henderson reunite?

Stick with Keeping It Heel for future updates on Paige, Jackson and the various North Carolina alumni playing in the NBA, G-League and internationally.