CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Given his injury-plagued last 12 months, even Marcus Paige’s parents were anxious for details after the All-American guard sat out the final 17:45 of No. 7 North Carolina’s 94-70 win over Appalachian State with pain in his right ankle on Monday.
Paige made a leaping block of Frank Eaves’ 3-point attempt on the left wing midway through the first half, and then jumped again in an effort to save the ball from going out of bounds. He landed awkwardly on his right foot, and immediately grimaced and signaled for a sub.
UNC officials termed the injury as a jammed right ankle, the same ankle on which Paige had surgery in April to remove bone spurs.
“It was a funny landing for me,” Paige told reporters after the game. “The area where I had surgery is sometimes sensitive still, so it just kind of jammed that specific part of my ankle and it kind of was painful. And then I just couldn’t really loosen it up, so I just shut it down.”
Paige (9 points in 17 minutes) re-entered the game for a five-minute stretch late in the first half, but after starting the second half, he pulled himself out roughly two minutes in. The Marion, Iowa native said he did not re-aggravate the injury, but did not want to be hobbling around with a four-day break forthcoming.
“It’s already better,” Paige said after his postgame treatment session. “Not entirely, but I’ll be fine for practice on the 26th.”
Paige missed the first six games of the season after breaking his right (non-shooting) hand in practice on Nov. 3. Last season, he suffered with plantar fasciitis in his right foot for roughly three months, in addition to a sprained right ankle and a hip pointer.
That series of injuries prompted concern and scrutiny following Monday’s victory, including a series of texts from his parents to athletic trainer Doug Halverson, which led Paige to calling them from the locker room after the game.
Such levels of apprehension by fans and family are a result of the recent injury bug, although Paige believes the concern is unwarranted, especially in this situation.
“Last year, it was with good reason,” Paige said, “but I feel like I have some toughness to me. I can get through a little pain. I’m very emotional sometimes on the court. I was in a lot of pain, so I kind of showed it right away. Ten minutes later it already started to feel better, but I’m fine.”
Paige acknowledged that he told reporters he was fine last season when he was banged up, but said this was a different scenario, calling this injury “nothing.”
“It was pretty painful, but I’ve had that similar sort of pain, or that situation happen, a couple of times since I had the surgery, and I know it’s a pretty quick turnaround to feeling better,” Paige said. “But in that situation, I just couldn’t get it to loosen up. I’m not worried about it at all. I’ll be fine.”