Paige Scratching The Surface

Looks can be deceiving for Marion (Iowa) Linn-Mar junior point guard Marcus Paige.

Ten months ago the 6-foot-1 Paige looked like he was 14 years old. Skinny and long, Paige struggled against bigger defenders. Rather than blow by them, he had to think his way to the basket.

Today, Paige may still look like he's 14 but he doesn't play like it anymore. He's quicker and more explosive. His body is starting to mature. Now when he gets in a one-on-one situation, he has more than just a high basketball IQ in his arsenal.

"Last year when he'd go to the basket it was a finger roll," Linn-Marr coach Chris Roberston said. "This year he's looking for opportunities to get to the rim and dunk it. As that develops he just gets more and more aggressive."

Martin Bros. AAU coach Hank Huddleson also noticed a difference in athleticism last summer.

"He was pretty crafty around the rim in transition but his explosion has just skyrocketed," Huddleson said. "He's catching alley oops. He's doing crazy dunks. His body is just maturing to where his ceiling is so high."

Paige's recent physical maturation doesn't make him an elite burner yet, but it's still important in his development. Paige already had a high basketball IQ and exceptional vision but now he has the explosiveness to display it at the highest level.

During Paige's recruitment, Linn-Mar coach Chris Robertson said UNC coach Roy Williams saw Paige fitting into a similar role at Carolina as some other greats -- both offensively and defensively.

He's not the athlete that Ty Lawson or Raymond Felton were at Carolina but Roberston sees him running the offense in a similar way.

"That's the way he needs to play," Robertson said. "I think there were some schools out there that were a little more half-court style and I don't think that fits his play. He needs to have the ball in his hands so he can push the tempo and be out in the open court."

From there Paige really shines. He's averaging 19 points per game on the season for Linn-Mar -- shooting 60 percent from two-point range and 38 percent behind the arch -- but he's even more effective setting up his teammates. (Stats were current at the time this article was written – click here to view Paige's updated game-by-game senior season stats.)

"All of the guys around him are shooting 60 to 65 percent from two because he just gets them the ball in great scoring spots where they basically have to catch and score," Robertson said.

Paige's long arms get him even more opportunities in transition by creating turnovers. A quick steal can lead to a quicker lay-up which can turn into a mini-run without much warning.

"On the ball he's really good because he just anticipates really well," Robertson said. "He's really long. He's 6-foot-1 but he probably has a wingspan of about 6-foot-4. He gets his hands on a lot of balls and turns turnovers into baskets."

Huddleson saw Paige take over a high school game earlier this year with his ability to quickly create offense.

"He was just going about his business and then the next thing you know he rattles off 18 in a quarter," Huddleson said. "And it was really mostly in a two and a half minute time frame. It was a dunk, a jumper, a three, another three."

In the half court Paige is strong making decisions off the screen and roll and is becoming a better shooter. Robertson said Paige's shooting ability is underrated and continues to improve.

Robertson said Paige reminds him some of former Duke guard Johnny Dawkins.

"Carolina fans might not want to hear that though," Robertson laughed.

Paige is still developing a killer instinct in a one-on-one matchups -- which was another layer to his emergence last summer, according to Huddleson -- but Robertson said he's always had a take-charge attitude when it comes to his teammates. During the semifinals of the 4-A state playoffs his freshman year, Paige pulled his teammates aside after leading scorer and senior Zach Bohannon fouled out of the game.

"Marcus pulled them together and basically said, 'We're not losing this game. Zach is going to play another game,'" Robertson recalled. "Marcus took over in the fourth quarter. He scored 14 or 15 points in the fourth quarter of that game as a freshman which got us into the state championship game. That's probably the biggest defining moment for him -- showing what kind of a competitor he is."

As much physical progress as Paige has made in the last 10 months his coaches think he's just scratching the surface. If he plays like this now, what happens when he really fills out?

"I wouldn't trade him for any guard in the country," Huddleson said. "His demeanor, how he handles the game, his shot, he makes exquisite decisions on ball screens. The sky is the limit for him."

Marcus Paige Profile

Inside Carolina Top Stories