November 5, 2013

Season Preview: Marcus Paige

North Carolina basketball is right around the corner, with their first game coming November 8 against Oakland.

Tar Heel Illustrated is kicking the season off with an outlook of the players heading into the 2013-2014 season, as we start with one of the most important positions in the Roy Williams offense; the point guard position.

Marcus Paige is one of only a few freshman to ever start at point guard for North Carolina and in the beginning, he looked at times as an inexperienced guard that still was learning how to run the point guard position in Chapel Hill.

However, after starting 34 games last year at point guard and really being the only option at that position, Paige became a leader for the Tar Heels while becoming Williams' "little nut."

In the end, Paige was averaging 29.2 minutes, contributing 8.2 points per game, while dishing out 4.6 assists and leading the Tar Heels to a 25-11 record, before losing to Kansas in the round of 32.

But now, the true test will be what improvement Paige has been able to make from his freshman to sophomore year, as he will be a true leader on the floor (named one of the captains on the team), directing and distributing the ball to his teammates.

Paige came in at the start of the season last year around 150 pounds but now has bulked up to around 175 pounds for the start of the season, something that was needed for him to prepare and guard bigger opponents, something that Paige did struggle at times last season, for example, Lorenzo Brown from N.C. State.

Now with his bulk, Paige will be able to hold his own at the guard position, while even contributing at the shooting guard position, a place where he will play at times with the Tar Heels being short at the shooting guard position in the start of the season.

Needed from Paige

Paige will certainly need to contribute like he did further on in the season in the scoring area, as more than likely, the Tar Heels will need him to average double digits by the end of the season.

Areas where he can improve is getting more to the free throw line, as Paige only went 51 of 61 from the free throw line, shooting 83.6 percent from the charity strike. His 51 points at the free throw line only made up 17.8 percent of his total points last year, as his bulk will help with him getting into the lane and possibly getting the calls.

Paige, at the end of the season, was a true threat from behind the arc for the Tar Heels and hit several key shots from three at the end of the season. His ability and confidence to shoot the three should continue to grow this season, but will want to shoot better than 34.4 percent from three to become a real threat from that area.

If Paige can become just that, especially when Paige plays the two position, while freshman Nate Britt takes over at the point guard position, it can provide help to a deep inside frontcourt for the Tar Heels.

For someone though that had to come in straight out of high school and almost lead a one man band at the point guard position, there is no doubt that Paige has gained the experience needed to now become a major factor coming in.

The coaches have looked and spoke with Paige about being a more selfish player at times, while being aggressive. But in a Roy Williams' offense, he wants one to be aggressive but under control, knowing when to pick your moments on the floor.

Paige has the ability to become one of the Tar Heels clutch players at the end of games, with his decision making and ability to score late in the game (he proved that several times late in the season and ACC Tournament).

Fans were even able to see a little glimpse of that Friday night with "Late Night with Roy", as Paige was the one that drained a floater to end the game in a 50-50 tie. That kind of ability is something the Tar Heels might need early on in the season with Hairston not being able to play for several games to start the season.

Paige's scoring, 1.9 assist to turnover ratio, and leadership will all look to improve throughout the season, as Tar Heel fans will look to continue a line of great point guards for the Tar Heels under Williams.

The presence of Britt certainly has a beneficial factor for Tar Heels and for Paige, relieving some of the pressure of being the only point guard last year. Britt was able to display his ability last week to run the team with his speed and bounce, but still can learn from Paige his freshman season.

No doubt about it though, the pressure will still be on to perform and grow as a player throughout the season, as Paige will have to be a leader both on and off the court for the North Carolina this season.

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