- Robbi Pickeral, College Basketball
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina point guard Marcus Paige said he still feels a twinge here and there in his shoulder when he makes certain movements.
But passing obviously didn’t hurt him Saturday.
The freshman dished out a career-high seven assists during the 20th-ranked Tar Heels’ blowout win over East Tennessee State. It marked his first game back since sitting out the previous weekend’s win over UAB because of a jammed left shoulder.
“I’m just about where I want to be," said Paige, who also had three points and three rebounds. “There’s still a little bit of pain when I do certain motions, but it’s not really hindering me or anything.”
Paige said his odd injury occurred when “I just went back awkwardly to catch a ball, over my head, in practice. And then it was a little sore after that and it kept getting worse.”
Sitting out the UAB game was hard, he said, because no one likes sitting out games. But he did take the opportunity to learn by watching.
“I just saw a lot of the defensive stuff coach has been talking about in practice -- certain rotations we’ve been missing earlier in the year, and just the level of intensity overall," he said. “It was good to see it the way coach gets to see it, so then I can try to apply it to the game when I came back.”
Paige, who is now averaging 7.3 points and 3.8 assists this season, said he continues to feel more and more comfortable running the team. UNC’s recent trip to the Maui Invitational helped the process of learning and meeting coach Roy Williams’ lengthy checklist of point guard expectations.
“It’s definitely becoming more instinctive,” Paige said. “Obviously I’m a freshman, so it’s still going point-by-point and making sure I check most of them off, but it’s becoming more of an instinct as I get more minutes and just get more experience. But it’s a pretty long list. It’s not easy, but I’ve been doing all right."
And of course, feeling better physically helps; Paige figures there's enough time for his shoulder to get back to 100 percent before the start of ACC play.
“I think I’m coming along, I had [seven] assists tonight and most of our buckets [30 of 31] came on assists, so it was good," he said. "… I think myself personally and as a team, we’ve progressed to the point where we know each others’ games and the chemistry is starting to click."