CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – As Marcus Paige walked to the Smith Center on Wednesday morning, a random food truck stopped and its driver asked the All-American how his broken right hand was progressing.
Whether it’s students or professors, employees or fans, everyone wants to know when the top player on the nation’s No. 1 team will be cleared to play.
“It’s kind of annoying, but it’s expected,” Paige said. “I’m walking around with stuff all over my hand and it’s the very beginning of basketball season.”
Paige fractured the third metacarpal on his right (non-shooting) hand during practice on Nov. 3. While Paige was playing defense, freshman forward Luke Maye ran by and Paige’s hand got stuck in his jersey at the shoulder, bending his fingers to the side.
“I felt a lot of pain and I knew right away that it wasn’t just a jammed finger,” Paige said.
The senior combo guard, who has only missed one game throughout his UNC career, is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. The Tar Heels’ ACC-Big Ten Challenge matchup with No. 3 Maryland takes place on Dec. 1, exactly four weeks after Paige injured his hand.
“I realize the timeline sets up for me to be back around that time,” Paige said. “I don’t have a specific goal for like which particular game I want to get back. I just want to be 100 percent when I come back. I don’t want to have to come back and deal with problems when I could just wait another week or five days and come back and be 100 percent.”
The nagging injuries that plagued Paige during his junior season – plantar fasciitis, a bruised hip, bone spurs – have provided perspective in a desire to not rush back onto the court.
“When I come back, I should be good to go,” Paige said. “They’re still hopeful that the timeline that they’ve talked about and we released in the statement is for me to be 100 percent. That’s not saying I’ll come back in the 3-4 weeks and be okay and progress into it. I would like to be full go when I come back.”
Paige currently cannot do much with his right hand, which is wrapped with a clamshell and padding to keep the bone in place. It still hurts to catch a basketball, and Paige said he hasn’t tested the hand enough to know if the pain level has decreased.
“The good thing is I’ll be able to stay in shape because you don’t need your hand to run sprints,” Paige said.