Paige Earns All-American Status

Marcus Paige experienced the full range of emotions in his basketball life this past week. From watching Duke's game-winner at the Smith Center Wednesday night to earning a McDonald's All-American selection Thursday, Paige had an up-and-down 24-hour stretch.

Paige took his official visit to North Carolina in the fall for Late Night with Roy but made a special trip Wednesday for one of sports' greatest rivalries. Prior to this week, Paige had only seen North Carolina play Long Beach State last season -- a far cry from what he experienced Wednesday.

"It was a great environment," Paige said. "It was hard to see the way the game ended but I think it's pretty clear we were the better team throughout the majority of the second half minus the last two minutes. So, it was a great experience."

The closing minutes of the game left many Tar Heel fans and players wondering what happened. Paige said the change of emotions was pretty startling to see in person.

"A few seconds before that it was so loud, the floor was shaking," Paige said. "After he hit the shot, you could probably hear a pin drop."

While Paige isn't technically a member of the Carolina basketball family yet, he said the loss was difficult to digest. He didn't go into the locker room directly after the game but spoke with coach Roy Williams immediately afterward and saw some of the players later in the night.

"The guys were kind of shocked really," Paige said. "It took them a while to realize they had just lost a double-digit lead and let the game slip out of their hands. But I think it's going to motivate them for the rest of the ACC and hopefully going into the tournament."

Less than 24 hours after watching the game at the Smith Center, Paige was officially named to the McDonald's All-American team. He was the lone Tar Heel from this year's recruiting class selected.

"It was a great honor," Paige said. "You look at the list of the guys who have played in that game and it's really exciting to be able to be in the same sentence as them. Also, a lot of the guys on the Carolina team have been McDonald's All-Americans so to be able to continue that is really a great honor."

Paige actually heard the news from his coach before Thursday but still watched the selection show to get the full experience.

"It's something I've really been working toward for a long time," Paige said. "Ever since this summer when I improved my play a lot and got a lot better, I knew it could be a reality. So it was probably my biggest individual goal from the beginning of the year. To see that come full circle and actually happen is really satisfying for me."

And Paige's selection wasn't due to a North Carolina bump, he's earned it on the court. After a terrific finish on the circuit last summer, Paige has averaged 26.4 points per game this season while leading a young Linn-Mar team to a 15-4 record.

"It's going pretty good," Paige said. "We have a couple games left. We're sitting at the top of our conference and somewhere ranked in the top eight in the state or so, which is pretty good considering we lost basically everyone from our team last year."

After serving mostly as a set-up man for his first three years, Paige has shouldered more of the scoring burden this year for Linn-Mar. He's playing nearly every minute each night and can't have an off-night if he expects his team to win.

The role is certainly different but Paige thinks it's gone well.

"It is frustrating at times, especially if I'm not shooting well because I'm not used to taking the volume of shots I've had to take this year," Paige said. "But I try to do whatever it takes to win."

Paige won't be asked to score quite this much next season at North Carolina but said the different role has helped prepare him for the college game.

"I've had to do a lot this year with creating my own shot. That will help, especially with the shot clock next year and late-clock situations (where) the point guard usually has the ball in his hands," Paige said. "Also, learning how to score efficiently and get to the free throw line and stuff like that."

Paige said he's even tried to view the extra minutes on the court as a positive. He rarely comes out of games, he says, and has even gone several games without coming out, which has been a challenge.

"I try to just take rest when I can at free throw breaks. It gets tough every once in a while but I just try to grind through it and it'll help me get in better shape, I guess," Paige said with a laugh.

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