Breakdown: Marcus Paige
Marcus Paige has really been thrown into the fire this season. With the early departure of Kendall Marshall to the NBA, Paige was asked to be the starting point guard at Carolina from day one. If that wasn’t a big enough task, he’s been forced to run the team with two of its best players sitting on the bench for the majority of most games. Under the circumstances, Marcus Paige has been pretty good.
Paige had his best game of the season against Virginia Tech last week, dominating the overtime period to help the Tar Heels avoid a disastrous loss at home. His 19 point, 5 rebound, 5 assist performance against the Hokies displayed the talent that earned him the No. 1 point guard ranking coming out of high school, and it gave UNC fans a glimpse of the player he can be. The next step is consistency.
Paige has been hesitant and tentative for much of the season, but it seems his confidence is growing. He’s shown the ability to beat defenders off the dribble to finish around the rim or find an open teammate. He’s also displayed a very nice shooting touch when he’s open and set, but he’s had a tendency to take some bad shots. The easiest thing Paige can do to improve and reduce his indecisiveness is to ratchet up his aggression level. He has good basketball instincts, and he simply needs to stop thinking so much and trust them.
It’s amazing what aggression will do for you in the game of basketball. Attacking the rim puts the opponent under lots of pressure, forcing them to react rather than harass. The defense will inevitably break down, and a high-percentage shot will ensue. Aggression on the defensive end disrupts the opponent and takes them out of their comfort zone.
Marcus Paige needs to bring this mentality on both ends of the floor and set the right tone for this Tar Heel team. Ideally P.J. Hairston should be the guy delivering this dynamic to the Carolina lineup this season, but for some reason Roy Williams continues to hold him back. If Hairston remains in Williams’ doghouse, Paige’s evolution as a leader will likely decide UNC’s postseason fate.
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