Marcus Paige was thrown to the wolves as a freshman at North Carolina. With the early departure of Kendall Marshall, Roy Williams was forced to start the young Tar Heel point guard.
Paige's youth was evident with his early play. Fans were growing impatient, having just witnessed one of the best passers in UNC history the season prior.
Paige simply wasn't at that level yet.
Does that mean he can't become an elite point guard? Absolutely not.
Nobody is born a great point guard. There is simply too much that goes into the position. Very few dominate as freshmen, either—especially in a conference like the ACC.
Paige has the makings of an elite point guard, though. And he could soon be mentioned in the same breath as the many other famous floor generals who have come through Chapel Hill.
But there are three areas of his game he needs to work on before he can reach that level.
Of all the attributes an elite point guard must have, great instincts and a strong basketball IQ are the most coveted. The good news is that Paige has both, and it shows on both sides of the floor.
Now he just needs to trust those instincts.
Last season, Paige was busted in the air far too often, failing to make a decision before his feet touched the ground. Sometimes it was in the lane; other times it was second-guessing a jump shot.
Passing lanes and open shots disappear in an instant. There is no time to question instincts.
Point guards handle the ball more than anyone, so mistakes will be made. Paige just can't be afraid of them.
When a point guard is as smart as Paige, hesitation will cause more turnovers than it will avoid. He knows what to do with rock. All he has to do is pull the trigger.
Elite point guards must also be a scoring threat. If he can't shoot the long ball, defenders will sag off. If he can't drive, defenders will smother him.
Becoming a consistent three-point shooter will go a long way in making Paige much more dangerous. He struggled from deep through most of the season, but as his confidence grew, the shots started falling.
He was 20-of-45 beyond the arc during his last 12 games of the season.
That's the Paige we saw in his prep days at Linn-Mar, and that's the guy we need to see from the jump in 2013-14.
From there, Paige will become a much more effective driver. He has the handles and quickness to get in the lane on the regular—especially if he continues to build on the 14 pounds of beef he gained over the summer.
He also sports an excellent floater which he didn't use nearly enough as a freshman. That's a deadly weapon that is extremely tough to defend.
If he becomes the shooting and driving threat he is capable of, passing lanes will open up, and the offense will be much more efficient.
The Tar Heels don't need Paige to score 20-plus points every night to win. He just needs to be a big enough threat to open up the rest of Roy Williams' offense.
Marcus Paige had the reputation of a leader in high school, but that was rarely seen last season. And who can blame him?
Paige was taking over the squad as a freshman, so he had to gain his teammates' trust before they would listen to the newbie. On top of that, he didn't have a grip on the system or the speed of the college game.
That makes it tough to direct guys the way a floor general should.
As a sophomore, Paige can no longer think that way. He has to be the guy directing traffic, and the guys have been with him long enough to respect what he says.
There are no more excuses for being passive. This team needs a leader, and there is no better guy on this squad to take on the responsibility.
No area of improvement I listed is beyond Paige's reach. He is too smart, gifted and dedicated not to reach elite status.
The only question is: How long will it take for him to get there?