Last season, North Carolina point guard Marcus Paige was lacking as a leader. A point guard has to be both a tactician and a strategist when on the court, and he was unable to fulfill either of those roles. Now, Paige is entirely capable of seeing the court on a play-by-play basis and able to see larger issues across the game on more than a minute basis. As Paige goes, so go the Tar Heels.
This year, his stats are down, most noticeable in his assist numbers. But then there is the massive jump in points per game. Paige is one of the top scorers in the ACC at 19.6 an outing. This is a product of his focal point of the offense. Compared to Duke point guard Quinn Cook who has dramatically upped his assist rate and maintained his same scoring numbers due to having so many scoring options on his team, Paige must carry the burden of perimeter offense. With P.J. Hairston now officially out of the picture, Paige’s role that until now was a product of necessity but not necessarily solidified, will now become his identity.
Unfortunately for Carolina, this is not necessarily ideal. Paige is an able distributor but lacks anyone to give the ball to and expect a positive result. He is expected to score and dish out assists like it’s Thanksgiving, but the Tar Heels don’t have anyone else to really step up and provide Paige with support. His massive increase in scoring is sign of a blossoming player but isn’t what Carolina had hoped was in store for him this season.
But the biggest difference between Paige’s freshman and sophomore years is in the way he conducts himself on the court. Last year, he exhibited flashes of talent, but it was never repeatedly demonstrate game-in and game-out. This season, he has a much better sense of the game and knows how to conduct the team and comport himself. Paige is a winner.
Whether or not he can drag along this Carolina team to respectable consistency remains to be seen, but for now, Paige is the heart, soul, mind and body of the Tar Heels.