Marcus Paige - Senior, Guard, 6-3, 177 lbs
2014-15 Stats: 14.1 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.9 rpg, 1.7 spg, 41.3% FG, 39.5% 3P, 86.5% FT, ORtg 118.8
What happened last season
Let's just say it didn't go as planned. Paige came off a breakout year as a sophomore where he was named First Team All-ACC and effectively carried UNC in several games. Based on that performance the expectations for Paige in his junior season were sky high. The ACC media picked him as the ACC Preseason Player of the Year and his name was often linked with All-American status.
The way the season unfolded was less than ideal for Paige. He admitted on UNC's media day that he did not play well early in the season. The pressure clearly effected him and his game was off. Complicating matters, Paige's body failed him. He spent much of the middle portion of the season struggling with plantar faciiitis in his foot. The injury was the nagging type that prevent him from practicing fully. It was also evident in games Paige didn't have the same lift on his jumper or necessary first step to get by defenders.
That changed in early March when Paige started play without pain. Over the final nine games of the season Paige averaged 16.0 ppg, hit 46% of his shots and was 44.1% from three while missing just one free throw in 25 attempts. The first 29 games were a mere shadow of what Paige would become down the home stretch of the season.
Outlook for this season
Again, things have not gone as planned. By all accounts Paige was completely healthy and playing at a very high level. Then his hand was caught by Luke Maye's jersey as Paige was playing defense in practice. The fingers were bent the wrong way and the result was a break of a bone in his non-shooting hand. The prognosis is 3-4 weeks which means a possible return after missing six games just in time for the Tar Heels to face #3 Maryland in Chapel Hill. One silver lining regarding Paige's injury is it affect his non-shooting hand. It should heal rather quickly and not be the nagging type of injury that plagued him last season. It is also not an injury to his foot or ankle which was the cause of much of his problems a year ago.
When Paige does return the expectation will be something along the lines of his final nine games of last season. In fact UNC's ability to make a title run will be heavily predicated on Justin Jackson, Joel Berry and Paige all building on how they played at the end of last season. For one it gives UNC a more efficient offense and balance with perimeter scoring. Secondly, it takes defensive pressure off of Paige. Assuming that happens, Paige should be set to average in the 16-17 ppg range, dish out 5+ assists and shoot 40% or better from three. In other words, do what Ty Lawson did in 2009 and possibly become just the third point guard in UNC history earn ACC Player of the Year honors.