CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – While Roy Williams has yet to pencil in his starting lineup for Friday’s season opener against Temple, his rotation has been consistent since Marcus Paige broke his hand last week.
No. 1 North Carolina is participating in the Veterans Classic at Annapolis - along with Florida, Navy and the Owls – with its All-American combo guard, who is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a fractured third metacarpal in his right (non-shooting) hand.
“What we’re doing at practice is rotating Joel Berry, Nate Britt, Theo [Pinson] and Kenny [Williams] through those two [guard] spots, but also giving Theo a couple of moments at the 3-spot to give Justin [Jackson] some time,” Williams told reporters during his press conference on Wednesday. “And I think that’s what we’ll continue to do until we get Marcus back.”
With Paige set to split time at the guard positions, Williams said the available playing time upon his return would be dependent upon how well his teammates are playing.
“If Joel was playing great, then Marcus would spend more time at the two,” Williams said. “If Theo was playing great, Marcus would spend more time at the one.”
The challenge during Paige’s absence revolves around role players such as Berry, Britt and Pinson suddenly being forced into starring roles.
“I have confidence in the role that they played last year, and now we’re going to ask them to play a different role,” Williams said. “We haven’t seen that yet. I have confidence in the kids and confidence in what they’ve done in the preseason, but we haven’t seen them do it yet.”
Which of your players is likely to benefit the most from Paige’s absence?
“I don’t know that the head coach will benefit the most, I can assure you of that. It depends because Marcus was going to play a lot of minutes, but he was going to split time at those two spots. Really, the guy that will benefit the most is the guy that’s playing the best, because if he plays the best, he’s going to get more time. I really didn’t have – and don’t have – a favorite spot for Marcus as a one or a two. I really don’t. Even when he’s in there as a 2-man, it just means he’s going to guard the other team’s 2-man because he’s still going to run the club and make the plays and that kind of thing. I know that’s a silly answer, but it’s the truth.”
Has someone stepped into a little bit more of a leadership role to fill Paige’s void?
“I think, in some ways, everybody has. Even Brice [Johnson] was talking more the other day at practice. I think everyone is stepping up and trying to assume that role. Kennedy [Meeks] and Brice as the big guys are doing a better job of playing harder and talking and doing those kinds of things in the practices that we’ve had. The nature of the position with Joel Berry and Nate tends to make them be guys who show a great deal of leadership. I think Justin Jackson and Theo… I gave you, what, seven guys? It really is that everybody’s doing a little bit of it.”
How does preparing for a team like Temple affect your preparation?
“It always does. We’ve had some opening games that we were going to win regardless, so you don’t worry about tapering off and the stamina. You’re trying just to get everything touched on and know that you’re going to get by. If you’re playing someone like Temple, you’ve got to limit what you do because you want to do those things very, very well. You want to be sharp offensively and defensively because part of the outcome of the game is going to be on how you play. Some of the times when you’re playing some people that you’re just more gifted, you’re going to win the games so you’re not so concerned about that. We’ve limited some of the things that we’ve done so far and we’re trying to really be ready to do a really good job with those things and hope they’re the most important things in the game.”