Marcus Paige has been watching more than just game tape of upcoming opponent Syracuse to get ready for his last home game in a Carolina uniform.
“It’s wild how fast it goes,” Paige said. “Part of me feels like I’ve been here forever, but part of me feels like I just got here and was a freshman and I’ve been going back and looking at old clips of me my freshman year.”
He said he’s watched a few games, including the ACC championship game, when Paige scored 17 points, but the Tar Heels fell to Miami 87 to 77.
“I just wanted to remember what I looked like, wearing the t-shirt and ankle braces and stuff,” Paige said. “I was like ‘man I look like a 14-year-old out there,’ but it’s been fun, man.”
Paige was part of a recruiting class that included fellow seniors Brice Johnson and Joel James.
J.P. Tokoto was also part of that recruiting class. He declared for the NBA Draft last spring and is currently playing with the Oklahoma City Thunder’s D-League affiliate.
Roy Williams said when he thinks about this group of seniors, one word comes to mind.
“They’re really an unusual group,” he said. “Completely, completely different personalities. The uniqueness of the three of them is something I really enjoy.”
He said Paige, being a coach’s son, is always very serious, and has been a starter since day one.
James has slowly carved out a niche as a solid backup big man.
Johnson on the other hand, brings something a little different.
“He’s a unique guy,” Williams said. “One of you asked me one time if it’s a love-hate, it’s a frustration relationship. I’ve always loved the kid. He’s always been a guy that I’ve really enjoyed and when I walk out and see him he’s doing something goofy.”
Williams said he’s going to be sad when he doesn’t get to coach these seniors anymore, but he doesn’t want to talk about their legacy until their final game is played.
“What they’ve done here over the past three years amidst the turmoil and sensationalism and the negative recruiting and all that stuff that’s affected our team for three years it’s pretty admirable,” he said. “But ask me that question when the season is over with and I’ll tell you.”
Toby Egbuna, Spenser Dalton and Justin Coleman will also be honored at Senior Night.
Tipoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.
Make sure to tune into WCHL at 5:30 for UNC Health Care’s Countdown to Tipoff to get all of your pre-senior night coverage.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-basketball-to-celebrate-senior-night
Marcus Paige read to third graders at Rashkis Elementary School on Wednesday afternoon. The senior guard recently was nominated for the Senior CLASS Award. The award is given by the NCAA each year to student-athletes that excel on and off the court. Paige is a double major in History and Media and Journalism. He has made the Academic ACC Honor Roll for the past three seasons.
If you ask UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams about his team’s identity – he’ll tell you it doesn’t have one.
“The identity of this team is that we have no identity,” he said. “It just changes game to game who we’re going to depend on and who’s going to get it done.”
Through 18 games this season, the Tar Heels have had seven different players lead the team in scoring.
Brice Johnson is the team’s leading scorer overall, averaging 16.1 points per game, but five other players are also averaging double figures.
“If I had to pick one thing I think it is our depth,” Williams said. “So far, and let me knock on wood, we’ve been able to withstand foul trouble or injuries.”
Most recently, it was junior center Kennedy Meeks who led the team with 23 points to beat in-state rival NC State.
The Tar Heels won despite the lack of production from their three leading scorers.
Marcus Paige, Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson combined for 15 points, something Williams said frustrated Paige.
“During the game on Saturday he came to the bench one time and said ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me,'” Williams said.
Paige finished with three points on 1-9 shooting, but Williams said he was happy that other players stepped up.
“The other guys had to pull them up this time and that’s always good for us,” he said.
Paige will look to get back in form against the reeling Wake Forrest Demon Deacons Wednesday night in Chapel Hill.
Wake has lost four of their last five games, while the Tar Heels look to push their win streak to double digits.
Marcus Paige is one of the 30 nominees for the men’s basketball Senior CLASS Award, given by the NCAA each year to student-athletes that excel on and off the court.
Paige is a double major in History and Media and Journalism and has made the Academic ACC Honor Roll for the past three seasons, according to his bio on the Senior CLASS Award website.
In February, the 30 nominees will be narrowed down to 10 finalists. The winner will be named during the 2016 NCAA Final Four.
CLASS is an acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School.
Also nominated from the ACC was Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon, Duke forward Amile Jefferson and Pittsburgh guard James Robinson.http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/marcus-paige-nominated-for-senior-class-award
The sun rises bright and high each morning over the African desert, much the same as it should hang over our own Dean E. Smith Center this winter. As King Mufasa once ruled over all of the animals while nurturing his son, Simba, so Coach Roy Williams will resume his quest to once again rule the ACC Kingdom by preaching the UNC Point Guard “circle of life” to his own Simba: point guard extraordinaire Marcus Paige. The question lies in whether or not Simba can get a little help from his friends this year, with the departures of James Michael McAdoo and Leslie McDonald.
It may be the easy conclusion to say that it all starts and ends with number five for the Heels, but that kind of pressure is unwarranted for Marcus Paige. Recent history under Roy Williams and his fast-breaking offensive style has proven time and again that yes, he needs a star up-tempo point man, but that player, whether it be Raymond Felton in 2005 or Ty Lawson in 2009, is not going to win a conference or national title alone.
In order for Paige to avoid passing out in the desert like Simba, and for him to reach the lofty goals set out for the team this year, he’ll need some help from his Timon and Pumbaa. J.P. Tokoto and Kennedy Meeks will each need to take a big leap forward to ease some of the burden on their leader. If Paige is going to take on the Felton/Lawson role in Williams’ scheme, Tokoto and Meeks should aim to fill roles previously filled with names like Rashad McCants and Danny Green or Sean May and Tyler Hansbrough. Tokoto has the size and athleticism to be an NBA wing player, but is still lacking confidence and consistency with his outside jumper. Meeks also looks to be a prototypical pro-level stretch power forward. With the 6’9” 270 pound body and strength he possesses, he should increase his rebounding production this season, but it’s his offensive potential, and his three-point range, that gets scouts talking about what this kid could grow up to be. The exact statistical production won’t necessarily be replicated simply because each season’s team is different; but it seems that for Roy Williams, his title teams have adhered to a distinct blueprint.
Roy’s national title teams had a few clear factors in common. Point Guards Felton and Lawson had each spent their first two years on campus proving their talents while failing to meet tournament expectations. Each of them was also surrounded by proven and talented players all over the floor, just as experienced. Seniors even earned significant playing time with those squads, which seems to be becoming rarer by the year in college basketball. By the time of each point guard’s junior year, their respective teams were both talented and experienced enough that opponents essentially had to pick their poison every time they played the Heels; production could come from anywhere on any given night. There was just that much talent and consistency on the court.
Fast forward to this year’s bunch, and what we have is one element that lines up and most others that don’t quite fit. We have Paige, the talented junior point guard, ready to make the leap and seize control of his kingdom. However, as talented as we know Tokoto, Meeks, and Brice Johnson can be, they have yet to demonstrate consistency throughout a full season. Incoming high school McDonalds All-Americans Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson will also play key roles on the wing. Jackson, a talented and rangy 6’8” offensive player from Texas, and Pinson, an athletic 6’6” small forward hailing from nearby High Point, are without a doubt high class talents. Talent does not always replace age and experience, which is the main ingredient this group will lack.
As the season progresses the key for the Tar Heels’ run at the ACC and potentially national crowns will rest with Mufasa’s development of his cubs. Coach Williams will teach and Simba will lead. Whether or not expectations are met will likely be determined by how well the rest of the pack learns and develops together.
Meanwhile, across the triangle in Durham, Mufasa’s brother Scar seems to have grown jealous of Simba’s potential claim to the throne. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has added his own uber-talented protégé this offseason in center Jahlil Okafor from Chicago, and the Blue Devils appear to be reloading.
Although Louisville and Virginia may have other plans, the ACC crown looks like it could easily end up mirroring a couple of alpha-male lions dueling it out in the desert (or on Tobacco Road) at the very end. It would only be right to have it all come down to Simba versus Scar, March 7th inside the Dean Dome. We’ll all hope for our sake that it plays out just like the movie, with Simba on top looking down at his kingdom (and returning for a senior season).http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-mens-basketball-preview-lion-king-edition
This Saturday morning found me as most have in recent weeks: huddled with my friends in a line outside of the Dean E. Smith center. Congregated under my roommate’s oversized golf umbrella, the half-dozen of us waited beneath a gray Chapel Hill sky and watched as puddles encroached. It was cold and my bed was much too far away for my liking. But everyone present knew that foregone sleep in a dry bed was simply the going rate for a much sought after commodity: revenge.
The Heels had an ax to grind on Saturday and certainly played like it, finally bringing a level of intensity worthy of the name on the front of their jerseys. Though it was far from a perfect performance, the boys in blue made further strides along what has been a steady learning curve as of late.
Freshman Marcus Paige continued to show improvement at the point, notching 8 assists against 0 turnovers and putting up 14 points. Paige looked comfortable running the show in the game’s closing minutes and once again proved himself to be a valuable asset at the charity stripe, knocking down 4 late free-throws to keep the wolfpack out of striking distance.
Of course, Paige’s progression seems to have been expedited by Roy Williams’ decision to go with a smaller lineup. With fewer big men crowding the paint, both Paige and Dexter Strickland have excelled in finding open driving lanes to the basket. Also of note is the sudden reappearance of the fast break. In the 4 games since P.J. Hairston was inserted into the starting lineup, the Heels have fought their way to a 77 to 38 advantage in points off turnovers, indicating that Coach Roy’s four guard experiment has not only paid dividends in the half-court, but in the transition game as well.
The most noticeable transformation on Saturday, however, took place off the court rather than on. Carolina played in front of an absolutely electric crowd that was hungry for payback. For the first time this season the risers behind the basket were filled to the brim, each step stacked two people deep. Student turnout was so high that the cheerleaders (who were somewhat surreptitiously implemented in the front row of the risers during Winter break games and who have, much to the chagrin of the students who wait in line hours before each game’s tipoff, remained there throughout the conference schedule) resumed their original post along the sideline to make room for the horde of blue-painted and, in many cases, rain-soaked undergrads.
The capacity crowd was voracious, exploding with each Tar Heel bucket and making its presence known during each crucial defensive stand. When James Michael McAdoo picked off a lazy pass by Lorenzo Brown at the top of the key and took it the length of the floor for a reverse jam late in the first half, the Dean Dome shook at its foundations. It was the loudest I’d heard the Smith Center since witnessing Harrison Barnes throw down a filthy put back dunk against Kentucky two years ago.
And the noise wasn’t limited to the regular die-hards found along the home baseline. In fact, one of the game’s loudest moments occurred midway through the second half when a “Let’s go Tar Heels!” chant erupted from the student general seating behind the home end-zone and was echoed by just about every Carolina fan in the building.
Stay focused, but stay angry. I like us when we’re angry.
“Big-time basketball” made another stop in Chapel Hill Saturday, and though it isn’t always this way the shaking Smith Center gave nothing up to crazy Cameron, maniacal Maryland and the Wild West venues of the Big 12 that Roy Williams occasionally pines for.
From the moment you saw far more fetching fingers in the air than tickets for sale in the afternoon mist outside, you knew this was going to be some scene inside. If only the game would live up to the hype between these old foes that seem to have a hoops rivalry again after years of domination by UNC, which came in with a 9-0 home record against N.C. State in the Williams era and won 13 of the last 14, 19 of the last 21 and 36 of the last 45 games against the revived Wolfpack.
Far from the half-empty upper decks that drive Williams nuts for lesser games, this resembled Duke’s annual visit in that the seats were filled to the top rows of the biggest on-campus basketball arena in the country. With every tough ticket being had, this crowd was ready to go long before the 4 p.m. tip.
And, as well as the atmosphere, the game between more bitter enemies than respectful foes did not disappoint. For more than two hours on a second straight bad-weather Saturday on the Hill, Carolina was the School of Rock. Even more so than last week’s great win over Virginia, the old girl with the Teflon top that is now 27 years young never shut up.
Sure, it helped that the opponent wore the red-trimmed black unies of a State College that has continually inserted itself into the recent troubles at UNC by hacking into websites, making the message boards buzz with obnoxious opinions and absurd accusations and playing freelance researchers for the local newspaper.
So the early video of Gio Bernard’s touché touchdown return that stunned State last October did not seem like just another football promo to launch 2013 ticket sales. It was far more an up-yours reminder, much like Duke kept showing the Austin Rivers’ dagger for weeks after it cut out Carolina’s heart last season.
The Smith Center itself is having a welcome metamorphosis. Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham found $800,000 to install the electronic ribbon board all the way around the upper deck fascia, where the graphics are pretty cool if not the most creative. And PA announcer Tony Gilliam has finally given UNC that deep, dramatic voice of intonation during introductions and scoring calls that has long been needed and really revs the crowd.
There is no question that, with one lineup change, Williams has made this a much more lovable Tar Heel team. It’s no coincidence that catalyst P.J. Hairston gets the loudest roar during starting lineups, and the fans are both hyped and hopeful that the four-guard alignment so contradictory to Carolina basketball will still produce the expected result come March.
After all, here is a double-post program that did not shoot a free throw for the first 30 minutes and four seconds of the game but had opportunities, albeit missed, to blow State out in both halves of what turned out to be a taught, tense, back-and-forth game. Williams has disdained trying to pound the ball inside to big guys who cannot score from the blocks consistently in favor of a West Coast style of offense that spreads the field, er, the floor.
Alignments aside, ol’ Roy’s young pups are definitely getting better and with three straight victories find themselves one from the magical 20 mark and i n third place (9-5) of the ACC race. This so-called quality win, 76-65, will go a long way toward assuring another NCAA tournament berth for the Tar Heels. Running the table would leave them 13-5 and with a possible top four seed.
They are still not beyond silly mistakes that stop runs and send Williams into sideline gyrations. But the plays they do make are both gutty and great-looking. Like tipping out missed free throws, a lost art with most teams invented by Dean Smith that provide precious extra possessions. And the sneaky overplaying defense that resulted in consecutive steals and snowbirds that opened up a seven-point lead in the first half.
When Carolina widened a six-point advantage to 10 with the first four points of the second half — but missed a chance to make it 16 by blowing two chippies and throwing it away with numbers on the break — Williams unnerved the crowd by using it as a teaching moment. Though he is essentially down to a six-man rotation, he answered the careless stretch by a bizarre bench-clearing with so little firepower that State astutely went to a zone and dared Carolina to shoot.
Marcus Paige, the only starter left on the court who had a stellar day with 8 assists and no turnovers after playing like a true freshman in the first game in Raleigh, answered with one of his two three-pointers. But before Williams could get the regulars back in the game the lead had become a four-point deficit to the extremely talented Wolfpack. The main men had gotten the message, though.
They regained the lead for good on Paige’s second three-pointer and took control of the game with the help of their first trips to the foul line and more big baskets by Paige and Reggie Bullock, who continues his vastly underrated season and looks more like a potential pro every game. The 6-7 Bullock’s 13 rebounds and 3 assists to go with his 5 three’s and 22 points made him the player of this game.
Sir Reginald had eight points in the 18-4 run that settled it, a stretch during which State and particularly C.J. or Calvin or Fester Lester (6 points, 4 rebounds in 30 minutes, for which Hairston’s defense has to get much of the credit) played like a true pack of dogs. Their real star, senior center Richard Howell, and freshman T.J. Warren combined for 23 points and 27 rebounds, and sharpshooter Scott Wood had drained both wide-open and contested treys, but State basically threw in the towel by not pressuring or fouling when the outcome was still in doubt.
By now, the home crowd was roaring its approval for the team with more heart than height and an alternative style of play that would make a retired coach and mathematician proud.
It was also time for the way-cool video that begins with former UNC stars ticking off the number of ACC titles, Final Fours, national championships, etc., and ends with them repeating “THIS. . . , THIS . . ., THIS . . .” and Smith himself completing the phrase:
“THIS is Carolina Basketball.”
On a beautiful, if not sunny, Beat-State Saturday, it certainly was.
This is far more about what Miami did than Carolina did not Saturday afternoon in Coral Gables.
But, don’t kid yourself, what the Tar Heels couldn’t do contributed heavily to their 87-61 blowout to the ACC-unbeaten Hurricanes who, frankly, keep playing like their nickname bearing down on the Final Four in Atlanta. If there is a better college team in the country than Miami, I haven’t seen it. And probably won’t.
Still, it would have helped if Carolina had made more than one of its first eight shots while the ‘Canes were going 5-for-6 out of the blocks. And getting back on defense would have been nice, especially when 6-11, 242-pound Kenny Kadji beat all of the half-hearted Heels down the court for a snowbird.
Fighting through screens instead of giving into them, and getting out on the shooters, might have held Miami to under 58 percent shooting from the arc (15 of 26). And, after proving he’s still not big enough and strong enough to play with true college post men, maybe James Michael McAdoo ought to try a two-handed dunk since his flying one-handers get blocked by real men.
Carolina has a freshman point guard who’s learning the college game. Miami has a sophomore point guard who went to spring training as a kid until Shane Larkin told Barry Larkin he liked basketball more than baseball. The kid has his dad’s athletic DNA and has become the motor that makes Miami a devastating transition team.
The Heels were completely outclassed, the same way the ‘Canes drubbed Duke back in January, and it now looks like the March 2 trip to Durham is the only thing separating Miami from going undefeated in the ACC’s first 18-game regular season. The team that hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2008 and only once in the last 10 years will be one tough out in the Big Dance.
Bronx-born Jim Larranaga, who took George Mason on that magical run to the Final Four in 2006 (beating UNC on the way), has the coaching chops to get his new team back there. The 63-year-old sideline journeyman may have taken one look at the upper class-laden Miami roster and deduced that taking his talents to South Beach was good way to end his coaching career.
The veteran ‘Canes can ’em from outside, bank ’em from the elbow and dunk ’em from down low. And they made it hard for the Heels to get any good looks inside of 20 feet, where Carolina avoided complete obliteration by hitting 5-of-11 three-pointers (three from P.J. Hairston) in the first half. But Miami scored 12 points on Tar Heel turnovers, and once the lead was in double digits, there was no comeback coming. We knew it. Carolina knew it and Miami would not allow it.
The U moved to 10-0 in the ACC by shooting 55 percent and holding Carolina to 39, limiting the Tar Heels to a season-low six trips to the foul line by keeping them out of the bonus in both halves of a fast and physical game. As discussed ad nauseam, Carolina has no low post play and cannot create the usual number of free throw attempts.
With Lebron James and D-Wade watching from the stands, suiting up the Heat stars could not have made it any more one sided.
It was a close to a perfect game as you will see in basketball, great shooting and defense that kept Carolina from executing most anything. Reggie Bullock remained the most consistent Tar Heel with 14 points and seven rebounds, but Bullock wouldn’t start and might not get many minutes for Miami. That’s how suddenly disparate the talent is between the two teams.
Marcus Paige and McAdoo, who have played so well of late, went 4-for-21 and both of them were as much out of their element as Miami usually is against the Tar Heels. Paige missed all five of his treys and McAdoo could not contend with Kadji, Reggie Johnson or Julian Gamble, the ‘Canes massive front line.
The game marked the beginning of the second half of the ACC season for the Tar Heels, who have to go to Duke Wednesday on Mike Krzyzewski’s 66th birthday and still have to visit Clemson, Georgia Tech and Maryland. They also have Virginia, State, Florida State and Duke at home, none of which will be easy.
So if they awake Thursday with a 6-5 ACC record, how hard will it be to get the 10 conference wins and 20 overall needed to insure a bid to the NCAA Tournament? After all, this is a season of mediocrity in what is usually the best basketball league in America. Only two teams are ranked and have proven themselves true contenders for the ACC and national championships.
Carolina is neither of them, but plays both of them within a span of four days. From the eye of the Hurricane to the chaos of the Crazies.
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.
You can follow Josh on Twitter @HoopVisions
The hashtags started flying like PJ Hairston’s jump shots in Chestnut Hill on Tuesday night.
Hairston was finally blossoming into the player Roy Williams called “the best shooter he has ever recruited” in the first half against Boston College, and seemingly every UNC student with a Twitter was taking notice. Igniting the team with fourteen points in just twelve minutes of action, Hairston was making a strong case to replace Dexter Strickland in the starting lineup at shooting guard as an offensive catalyst. Then, disaster struck.
It was an incredibly odd scene to watch unfold. At UNC, we consider the basketball players to be demigods. They are stronger, faster, and more athletic than is seemingly imaginable. To steal a line from Austin Powers, women want to be with them, and men want to be them. Seeing one of these superheroes hurt so badly, unable to walk without support, was jarring. If you aren’t reminded every once in awhile, you can sometimes forget that basketball players are human, too. That reality, that athletes are also vulnerable, was all too apparent on Tuesday.
Tasteless jokes that Strickland hit PJ on purpose to save his job aside, the outpouring of support for Hairston was tremendous. Everyone quickly grasped the severity of the injury and the implications for the team. Without Hairston, our bench is reduced to Leslie McDonald (coming off injury and suspension), freshman forwards, and Blue Steel. For this team to finish strong and make a run in the NCAA Tournament, Hairston’s return will be key. Without him, Carolina will struggle, as they demonstrated with a lackluster effort in the second half against a weak Boston College team. Even with McDonald returning against Virginia Tech, the UNC bench managed just thirteen points, one fewer than Hairston alone had in his limited action at BC. That it took the best performances to date by James Michael McAdoo and Marcus Paige to beat the middling Hokies (at home, in overtime, no less) is both troubling and promising. While McAdoo and Paige are unlikely to play at such a high level on a consistent basis for the remainder of the season, the knowledge that they might is what UNC fans can hold onto until Hairston is back.
As someone who suffered a mild concussion earlier this year (intramural soccer is a dangerous business), the after-effects can linger for a long time after the injury. Physical ability may not be hindered after the first few minutes, but mental thought processes are often slower and reaction time to new information can suffer markedly. While everyone responds differently to brain injuries, the trauma that Hairston suffered is very serious. He probably doesn’t have the most beautiful countenance on the team to begin with, but his vacant stares from the bench are indicative of a player that won’t be fully recovered for some period of time. Even if he does recover quickly, there is an increased risk for a more severe concussion if he is hit again.
The trainers at campus health recommended that I not resume physical activity for at least three weeks following my concussion, though I get the feeling that PJ may be pressured to play sooner. The mysterious and somewhat subjective nature of brain injuries makes it possible that Hairston’s own evaluation of his injury and his desire to play will partially dictate when he returns to action, a potentially dangerous proposition.
For everyone’s sake, I just hope that #PJBeHealing.