UNC in the Pros: Marcus Paige wins Adriatic League title

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04: Marcus Paige
HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04: Marcus Paige /

Former UNC standout Marcus Paige found success in Serbia’s premier basketball league, winning the national cup with KK Partizan on Sunday.

Fans of a lighter shade of blue watched a certain 6-foot-1 guard from Cedar Rapids shine on and off the hardwood floors of the Dean Smith Center for four beloved years, where he would leave his mark in a myriad of ways.

Blistering shooting performances, dazzling acrobatic finishes, lethal scoring outbursts and acts of second-half heroism would all go on to encapsulate what Marcus Paige was capable of accomplishing on the basketball court. In terms of individual success, Paige’s hypothetical trophy case was filled with notable achievements: all-ACC honors, all-American honors, academic all-America honors, and stats and figures littering the UNC history books.

Yet, his cache of honorable awards was incomplete and wholly unfulfilled, by both his standards and the standards of millions of spectators. Despite his brazen assortment of individual honors, what he lacked was something of a team ilk—a national championship.

Through no fault of his own, Paige and his fellow Tar Heels saw four consecutive seasons conclude in similar fashion, with early exits in the NCAA Tournament—with anything short of a national title being considered ‘early’ for a prestigious program such as UNC’s—crushing hopes of lore and legacy that a title would bring.

As a collegiate player, Paige was brutally exposed to the pitfalls of athletic competition, the reality that winning at the highest level is a scarce goal that 350-plus teams are fighting for on an annual basis.

Quite simply, as a collegiate player, national titles eluded him. But they wouldn’t elude him as a professional.

In a thrilling 76–74 victory over KK Crvena Zvezda on Sunday, Marcus Paige and KK Partizan Belgrade were crowned winners of the Radivoj Korać Cup, the national cup in Serbia’s Adriatic (ABA) League.


Although a 17-minute, zero-point outing may suggest that Paige was merely an inconsequential member of the Serbian ball club, such a suggestion couldn’t be further from the truth.

Mixing in time as both a starter and key reserve for the young Partizan squad, Paige would consistently contribute to the team’s nightly scoring efforts, averaging 9.5 points in SuperCup action, 10.9 points in EuroCup play, and 12.9 points in the ABA regular season. A hot-shooting month even rewarded Paige with the League’s monthly MVP honors, as he averaged an impressive 15.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, and 1.5 steals during the month of January.

After spending two years down in the NBA G-League with the Salt Lake City Stars and Greensboro Swarm, it seems like Paige may have found a new home—at least until his current two-year contract runs out—overseas where he’s being presented with unforeseen levels of success. Two years as a G-Leaguer rarely afforded him with the opportunity to play meaningful minutes in the NBA, with only five total appearances to his name up to this point.

Now in the Adriatic League, Paige is given a chance to compete in one of Europe’s premier leagues, with titles and championships well within his grasp.

His time overseas doesn’t have to be permanent—but if it is, that’s certainly not a bad outcome. He can either become the latest UNC alumnus to craft a memorable career in Europe, or he can use his stint in the ABA as a stepping stool to something greater, such as a return to the NBA.

Whatever the case may be, he’s playing, and he’s playing damn well at that. And, most importantly, he’s winning.

Of course, he’d look a lot better winning in Carolina blue instead of black-and-white, but hey, winning is winning.

We won’t complain.

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For more coverage on Marcus Paige and all other Tar Heels in the pros, stick with Keeping It Heel.