North Carolina Basketball: Is Marcus Paige Turning the Freshman Corner?

Rollin YeattsFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC - DECEMBER 29:  Marcus Paige #5 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts to a play during their game against the UNLV Rebels at Dean Smith Center on December 29, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It hasn't been an easy start to Marcus Paige's career, but the North Carolina Tar Heels' freshman point guard appears to be turning that proverbial corner.

Anyone that understands the game of basketball should know that very few point guards can just step on the collegiate court and dominate from game one. Even UNC's Ty Lawson was unable to do that.

Like a quarterback, the point guard needs time to grasp not only the offense, but the tendencies of teammates and the speed of the game. That takes time, folks—and even more time in this case, considering the constant rotation of players in Chapel Hill this season.

It would be one thing if this team was solidified in the offseason, with the point guard being the only position changing. That wasn't the case, though.

The only upperclassmen on this team never had to be the go-to guys. Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald were shooters. Dexter Strickland was a master of defense and a secondary point guard.

Sophomores James Michael McAdoo and P.J. Hairston rode the bench most of last season, and no center on this team had started a single game in college. This was the situation handed to Paige, and it's unfair for any of us to expect dominant numbers right away.

He seems to be clicking now, though.

In Marcus Paige's first seven games, he was averaging 3.3 assists and three turnovers per game. In his last five games, he is averaging 5.8 assists and 1.8 turnovers per game.

Paige is learning what he can and can't do against college defenses, and the chemistry with his teammates continues to build.

At the beginning of the season, he was just a part of ball movement, and rarely facilitated the offense the way we have come to expect from Carolina point guards. Strickland even ran point at times with Paige on the floor. Now we are seeing him penetrate and dish, or even knock down some beautiful floaters.

That has also gotten Paige to line more often, which is something the Tar Heels desperately needed. In those first seven games, Paige was 1-for-1 from the free-throw line. In the five games since, he is 9-of-12, including 6-of-8 against UNLV.

His defense has even stepped up over the last couple games, doing things you won't find on the stat sheets. Guys aren't just blowing by him anymore.

What you will find on the stat sheets is an average of 1.2 steals per game.

That may not be top-notch, but FAU was the only team he didn't jack at least one from. He should've had a block against UNLV, but it was called a foul after an acting job by Katin Reinhardt that would've made Reggie Miller blush.

I really see Paige coming around as a true floor general. His shooting has been suspect, but, as I've said before, that will come when he gets more confident running the offense.

Sometimes we get too caught up in the big picture, rather than focusing on the minor details that make it all come together. With young teams and players, it's about their progression—not their season stats.

And steady progression is what we have seen from Paige.

I have heard many doubters this season, and I'm sure some still remain. But Carolina fans shouldn't give up on Marcus Paige this early in his career.

I know what this kid is capable of, and we haven't even come close to seeing the full product.