UNC's Paige Pops Home, Ready For Sophomore Season

By Jeff Johnson and Scott Saville, Reporters

North Carolina's Marcus Paige (5) launches a shot in the second half against Virginia Tech at the Smith Center in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Saturday, February 2, 2013. North Carolina won in OT, 72-60. (Robert Willett/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT)

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By Grant Burkhardt

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Of all the places you’d expect to see Marcus Paige, the Iowa Conference baseball tournament was not among them. Yet there was the North Carolina point guard Friday, at Veterans Memorial Stadium to root on some of his old Linn-Mar High School buddies.

“I’ve got four days off here, then it’s school, it’s summer school,” Paige said. “It’s nice to see friends and family again.”

The 2012 Iowa Mr. Basketball had some struggles as a freshman with the Tar Heels but ended the season strongly and could make a big jump on the national scene next season. The same could be said for his team, which finished 25-11 in 2012-13 and lost in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Leading a unique four-guard lineup, Paige averaged 8.2 points and 4.6 assists for UNC, shooting 36 percent from the field. In his first NCAA game against Villanova, he scored 14 points and had four assists and three steals.

“I definitely learned a lot,” Paige said. “I struggled at the beginning of the year, but Coach (Roy Williams) kept his confidence in me. I was confident in my abilities, and towards the end of the year, they really started to show through. Definitely a learning experience for me.”

With most of its roster returning and three high-level recruits coming in, North Carolina is expected to be one of the nation’s top teams in 2013-14. There will even more pressure on Paige to lead the Tar Heels.

He seems ready for that challenge.

“I think we should be really good next year,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of guys coming back. We lost two good players, but we’ve got a big guy and two guards coming back that will help us out. We could make a run at the Final Four if all of the pieces come together.”

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