Season stats: 8.2 PPG, 4.6 APG
Per-40 minute stats: 11.2 P, 6.3 A
Season in a sentence: Marcus Paige showed progress as the season advanced, leading to optimism about a breakout sophomore year.
Season highlights: Paige was a member of both the coaches' and media All-Freshman teams, honors he paired with a selection to the ACC All-Academic team. After being challenged by Roy Williams midway through the year, Paige also made significant strides with his defense, and eventually earned the George Lynch award as the team's best defender.
The Iowa native snapped out of some early shooting struggles with 15 points at Long Beach, then contributed 13 points and five assists against Butler in Maui. He began to find his shooting stroke at midseason, and poured in 19 points against Virginia Tech. He made 3-of-5 three-pointers in a 17-point performance against Virginia. One of his best performances came against NC State, a team he had struggled against on the road. But in the rematch, he scored 14 points to go with eight assists and zero turnovers and had a key three-point play. That means you have an excuse to watch this all-access video from that win again:
In terms of individual highlights, this back-to-back behind-the-back sequence against Maryland in Chapel Hill looks like it came from a mixtape:
Against the ACC: Watching Marcus Paige last year, you got the sense that he was improving as the year progressed. The numbers support that theory. His per-40 numbers went to 10.1 points and 6.1 assists against ACC competition. He also showed improvement the second time he faced an opponent. In the ACC opener against Virginia, he had just two points and two assists to go with two turnovers. Later, at home against the Cavaliers, he tallied 17 points and three assists. He had four assists in the first meeting with Florida State, then more than doubled his output to nine assists the second time. But the most dramatic improvement came in the above-mentioned game against NC State.
Another positive indicator on Paige's potential: his assist-turnover ratio was actually better in a dozen games against NCAA Tournament teams (2:1) than it was overall.
Postseason: If there's a signature Paige play from his freshman season, it's this floater over seven-foot Alex Len in the ACC Tournament semifinals with less than a minute to play:
Roy Williams referred to Paige several times last year as a "tough little nut." If you ever need to see the embodiment of what that phrase means, it's a lefthanded freshman driving right in the ACC Tournament semifinals and sinking a floater over a seven-foot first-round draft pick.
Paige was solid in his two NCAA Tournament games, scoring 14 points against Villanova and nine against Kansas. However, the nine points against the Jayhawks did come on just 3-of-10 shooting, and he had more turnovers (4) than assists (3) in that game.
Areas of improvement: Paige needed to add weight, and he has, going from 157 pounds last year to 171 currently.
One of the next steps in Paige's progress will be controlling a game on the road the same way that he does at home. He shot just 23.5% from the field in ACC road games, as compared to 37.1% at the Smith Center against league foes. His assist/turnover ratio (2.36 in Chapel Hill against the ACC, 1.38 on the road against the league) was likewise heavily tilted towards home games. The only two games of the conference season when the freshman had more turnovers than assists were played on the road.
Season stats: .279: Paige's three-point shooting percentage in the first 11 ACC games of the year.
.444: Paige's three-point shooting percentage over the final 12 games of the season.
8: The number of defensive player of the game awards Paige earned from the Tar Heel coaches, the most on the roster.
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Adam Lucas is a GoHeels columnist and the editor of CAROLINA digital magazine.