The number that stood out most when North Carolina released its 2012-13 roster was 157, as in Paige’s weight upon enrollment. The Marion, Iowa native’s slight frame was a central theme throughout the season, beginning with fatigue first setting in during the Maui Invitational and ending with power conference point guards imposing their physical will.
As expected, Paige’s offseason workouts with strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian have run the gamut in varying lifts, including Olympic lifts to increase explosiveness.
“I’ve done so many different things just trying to get stronger, more flexible and [become] a better athlete,” Paige said during his summer press conference on Thursday.
The result has been an increase of 14 pounds thus far, bringing Paige’s weight to 171 pounds. His goal is 175 pounds by the end of summer, although his focus is geared more to building strength than adding a set amount of weight. Paige is developing a more effective arm bar while also building a stronger base to better absorb and fight through screens.
A seemingly standard Sahratian eating requirement for increasing size is eating six meals a day and Paige is no different. His meal plans include plenty of lean meats and cottage cheese.
Paige acknowledges that he played at a size disadvantage even at the high school level, but with strength playing a key role at the college level, he often battled fatigue early as a freshman before learning to adjust as the season went along. Players such as UNLV’s Anthony Marshall, N.C. State’s Lorenzo Brown and Miami’s Shane Larkin provided serious challenges for Paige on both ends of the court.
His hope is that the added weight will combat any potential fatigue from the get-go instead of having to adjust throughout the season. While Paige doesn’t lean on the physical wear and tear to explain his rookie shooting woes – 8.2 points per game on 35.6 percent shooting – the physicality of the game likely played a role.
His shooting percentage increased over 100 points once Roy Williams switched to his small lineup over the final 13 games, highlighting his increased confidence and ability to create with better team spacing.
“There wasn’t really a light bulb moment because I wasn’t consistent, even at the end of the year,” Paige said. “But I would say the Virginia Tech game was the game where I really felt the confidence level take a big jump.”
Paige scored a season-high 19 points against the Hokies, including eight in overtime.
“I made a couple of shots last year that people were like, ‘no, no, no,’ and I made the shot and they were like, ‘yeah!’” Paige said. “That’s just something as my confidence grew, I didn’t have a problem taking those shots. But now I think it’s more of a commanding role for me next year to be able to have the ball, want the ball and demand the ball in those situations so that I can make a play instead of just ending up with the ball and taking a shot.”
In addition to more consistent perimeter shooting, Paige is working to become more of a hassle defensively and to develop his leadership capabilities. He’s taken advantage of UNC’s recent wealth at the guard position by picking the brains of former players like Kendall Marshall, Shammond Williams and Raymond Felton while they are back in Chapel Hill this summer.