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November 15, 2013

Growing as a Leader

Marcus Paige a year ago was just a freshman coming into one of the most storied programs in college basketball and getting his first start in Chapel Hill.

One can say that so much has changed in only a year for Paige, as he now is one of the leaders for a team who has been hurt in the off-season and has been forced to take over the reins for the Tar Heels early on.

Friday night, Paige scored a career high 23 points against Holy Cross, as North Carolina needed every point to defeat the Crusaders, as the Tar Heels were cold from the floor for most of the night.

Paige was 8-of-16 from the floor and hit key three pointers Friday night, something he has improved a considerable amount from last year.

Last year, Paige was just learning how to play college basketball, learning what Roy Williams wanted out of him as a point guard, and learning how to deal with expectations that were left in front of him.

Now, it seems like nothing gets to him, that he isn't afraid to take the big shot, and not afraid to step up as a leader and take over a game; yet, he is only a sophomore.

Paige has worked relentless hours of the off-season to perfect his game and it has shown early in the 2013-2014 season, as he is averaging 18.5 points in two games so far and has truly become one, if not the only at times, perimeter threat the Tar Heels have on the outside.

With the NCAA violations still looming over the basketball program with P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald, Paige has been forced into a role he hasn't always been quite use to; the shooting guard.

And at times, Paige's instincts take over him and he faults back to being a true point guard, but at times, Paige looks a like a star and a guard that has played that position before in his career.

He has done everything he can do for this team at the start of the season and has even taken over being a leader and model for the young freshman Nate Britt, who has been forced into a similar role that Paige was in this year.

But other than being just a model to the younger guys, one can see a different "swagger" about Paige, something that he lacked last year.

His decision making has made a huge difference in the first two games, he seems to understand his body (as he was able to bulk up and become more physical through the off-season), and he just seems to be understanding his game as a player on the court; to cover it all, it just seems to becoming so much more easier and fluent for him on the court.

The one aspect of his game though is his scoring this year, as Williams talked about it Friday night after the win against Holy Cross.

"He was a scorer in high school and I like scoring point guards," Williams said. "Ty Lawson was a scorer, Raymond Felton was a scorer, and I like scoring point guards. I think it gives them an extra dimension."

"Marcus (Paige) is a good scorer. Marcus is a basketball player. He has tremendous savvy and he's good defensively."

"He is our best shooter and the guys need to work harder to help him get open. But he made some big plays for us."

Even his other teammates have noticed what Paige has been able to do on the court.

"He's our leader, what else can I say," Brice Johnson said Friday night.

Someone had to step up in the absence early on in the season for this team and Paige has been the one to lead the way so far.

Williams has liked to mention Paige as his "little nut" in the past, but that "little nut" has been the glue so far for this team and has been able to put this team on his back and not break.

With Paige taking the bull by the horns on the leadership end at such a young age, shows how confident and calm he is with handling the pressure.

And for sure, there has always been pressure coming in for point guards at North Carolina, in who might be the next great.

Well Tar Heel faithful, you might be watching it unfold right before your eyes in Marcus Paige.





 

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