CAROLINA: An Iowa Pipeline
Release: 01/23/2014

This story originally appeared in the Jan. 21 issue of CAROLINA.


by Robbi Pickeral

To the best of his recollection, Roy Williams has recruited in 47 out of 50 states during his Hall-of-Fame coaching career, traveling everywhere to watch high school's best sans Alaska, Vermont and Montana.

One of his most successful outposts: Iowa.

Sophomore point guard Marcus Paige is the fifth player from the Hawkeye State to be lured by Williams, joining Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich (who starred for him at Kansas) and former UNC standout Harrison Barnes.

Williams jokes that his success in Iowa makes him one of the most hated men in that state, but the success he's had with players from that state keeps him going back.

"I saw Raef LaFrentz first, and I just thought that if there was ever a big guy that had all the qualities that I wanted, that was him, and we were fortunate enough to get him,'' Williams said. "And then I saw Nick Collison and saw the same thing."

Paige, the Tar Heels' leading scorer, said watching players from his home state fare so well with Williams had an impact on his college choice-as did the fact that he always was a UNC fan (he was particularly partial to the '05 championship team growing up, and Vince Carter is his favorite player "ever, in history").

But the ballhandler also got a little help from another would-be Tar Heel-from yet another state.

"J.P. [Tokoto] was one of Coach's early targets,'' Paige said, referring to the sophomore classmate who hails from Wisconsin, "and Coach asked him if there were any point guards in the country he would like to play with. And then J.P. brought up my name."

Williams ended up sending assistant coach C.B. McGrath out to watch Paige play in some tournaments, the player said, and the relationship between Paige and the Tar Heels grew from there.  "J.P. kind of threw me an assist, because [Coach] probably would have never heard of me-or might have heard of me too late-if it hadn't heard about JP," Paige said.

(Although that's a little hard to believe, considering Williams' aforementioned fondness for Iowa recruits.)

Tokoto, for the record, is the first player from The Badger State to play for Williams since the coach returned to Chapel Hill in 2003. In all, players from 17 different states have signed with the Tar Heels since Williams became head coach.

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