This was Roy Williams, the North Carolina coach , talking about Marcus Paige on Monday night and those questions that surrounded Paige not long ago, the ones about what was wrong with him and what was bothering him and whether the pressure was too much.
Silly questions, it seems now, with Paige perhaps coming off of his best game of the season.
“I really don't care about the questions,” Williams said. “I really don't. I don't care if it's you or the Pope – and I'm not Catholic. So I'm not making the Pope mad. I never questioned him. I never questioned him. So I really don't care.”
Williams thought back to the questions that surrounded Paige last year and the year before that.
Remember those? Williams does.
“I got the same kind of questions his freshman year,” he said, “and the same kind of questions at the start of the year last year – 'Do you really think he's as good as you say he is?' So that didn't bother me in the least. You'll have to ask him. But it didn't bother me. Because I know basketball.”
And so Williams knew it'd just be a matter of time before Paige starting playing like, well, Paige. Like the ACC Preseason Player of the Year. Like the player he was most of last season.
Paige played one of his finest games of the season on Monday night against Syracuse: 22 points, eight assists and no turnovers. No turnovers, when at times UNC was turning it over again and again against Syracuse's 2-3 zone.
That's what the Orange's zone does. Part of what it does, anyway. It forces turnovers. Syracuse's opposition has commited turnovers on 21.6 percent of their possessions, which ranks in the top 60 nationally. Out of about 350 teams, that's pretty good defense. The Tar Heels had a season-high 20 turnovers on Monday night.
Paige had none. Afterward, he said he's feeling better. He made a joke about the training staff using “super glue” to keep him together. He has been hurt lately. Ankle. Hip. Foot. He's been playing through plantar fasciitis, a painful foot condition. Not that you would have known it the way he's starting to play.
He had one of his best games of the season earlier this month in a victory at N.C. State. And then, probably, an even more complete game against Syracuse on Monday night.
“I'm starting to feel a little better,” Paige said. “Still aches and pains but a lot of people in our league are feeling aches and pains right now. My foot is getting around that corner. ... I'm starting to feel comfortable enough playing on it where I don't worry about it too much. And it's helping me play more aggressively. So I'm happy with where I'm at. Still not 100 percent, but I'm getting there.”
Seems that way. Ask Syracuse.
Even better, ask Williams. There was never any doubt for him. Only a matter of time.
“His shot's going in,” Williams said. “He's getting a little more healthy is a big thing, too. But he's getting a little more help now, too. But no. I told you guys more than once if Marcus was my biggest concern I've got a really blessed life.”