Marcus Paige could stand to be a little more selfish.
Not in the annoying kind of way that would alienate the locker room. In the assertive and confident way when you know you bring the most to the table. North Carolina will have more games like Sunday’s loss to Belmont if Paige plays passively on offense.
“He’s our best shooter, and the guys need to work harder to get him open,” UNC coach Roy Williams said after watching Paige score a career-high 23 points against Holy Cross on Friday.
I’m still not sure Paige views himself as the team's best shooter. Or at least, I’m not sure Paige feels that in being the best shooter he’s entitled to take more shots. He should, because he is.
Maybe we’ll look back on Paige’s performances from this past weekend -- including his 17 points in the loss to Belmont -- as the opening chapter in his development as a scorer.
“It’s obviously a work in progress, just because it’s something I haven’t had to do here yet,” Paige said. “But at the same time, you’re a basketball player, and if the team needs you to step up and be a scorer, then that’s what you have to do.”
Last season, Paige scored in double figures only 10 times and accomplished it in back-to-back games only twice. He’s been in double figures all three games this season and is second on the team behind James Michael McAdoo with an 18.0-point average.
Paige’s performance against the Crusaders came in large part because he was forced to take over with Carolina shooting 27 percent in the first half. It shouldn’t come to that point anymore.
“My teammates trust me enough to be a good decision-maker while still maybe taking more shots or being more aggressive,” Paige said. “That’s just something I know I have to do.”
It’s clear that he's the Tar Heels’ best, maybe even the only, perimeter shooting threat. It’s also clear that Carolina will struggle offensively if Paige and McAdoo aren’t scoring.
It’s not a stretch for Paige to have a scorer’s mentality.
“In high school I felt more comfortable hunting my shot, especially my senior year,” Paige said. “Last year I became a distributor with three scorers [McAdoo, Hairston, Reggie Bullock] as good as me. I still have a little bit of that aggressive mentality in me. I’m going to have to bring it out at least for the beginning of the year.”
Judging from the way the Heels handled the late-game situations against Belmont, squandering a five-point lead in the final 60 seconds, they don’t have an alpha male on the roster. There was no one who demanded the ball for the final shot.
Paige can be that guy.
“He was a scorer in high school, and I like scoring point guards,” Williams said. “Ty Lawson was a scorer, Raymond Felton was a scorer, and I like scoring point guards. I think it gives them an extra dimension.”
Paige has that extra dimension. He’s just going to have to nurture it for the Tar Heels to blossom.