As Marcus Paige understood it, North Carolina’s plan entering the season was for him to be the Tar Heels’ starting point guard.
“I think the original plan,” Paige, a senior guard said after a 96-71 victory against Miami on Saturday, “was to go Paige, (Theo) Pinson, (Justin) Jackson (as starters).”
But then Paige broke a bone in his hand during practice days before the start of the season. Joel Berry, the sophomore guard who’d been contending for a starting spot, anyway, solidified his role as the team’s starting point guard. And that’s where he has remained since, with Paige playing shooting guard since his return.
In the victory against Miami, though, Paige played more point guard than he had in any game this season. His minutes there usually came alongside Nate Britt, and Paige spent so much time at point guard in part because Berry found himself in foul trouble. He finished with four fouls.
Even so, coach Roy Williams had wanted Paige to receive more time at point guard. And on Saturday the opportunity presented itself.
“We’ve been trying to do that all year,” Williams said. “At the start of the year, it was going to be he was going to play a lot at the point.”
But then came Paige’s injury. Paige missed UNC’s first six games and when he returned he still wasn’t 100 percent, he said on Saturday. The injury affected his dribbling.
“And then we played arguably our best game of the year, which was the Maryland game,” Paige said. “And then we hit a stretch where we didn’t play so well and I thought that as soon as my hand would get better that I would go back to the point guard.”
It didn’t happen that way, though. Berry has remained the team’s starter at point guard and Paige had played there sparingly – until Saturday.
“Today was the first day all year where I played significant minutes at the point guard,” Paige said. “Our coaches talked about shuffling it to where I think when Nate is in the game, I’m the point guard – just have the ball in my hands to help me feel more comfortable.”
Paige said playing more point guard “helped me out a lot.” It also appeared to help UNC’s offense.
Paige’s increased time at point guard coincided with one of the Tar Heels’ most complete offensive performances of the season.
“I didn’t shoot the ball well today or anything but I felt like a completely different player today, being able to have the ball in my hands and make some plays and pitch the ball ahead in transition,” he said. “It was weird. It felt good.”