Two Points Better Than One

Inside Carolina
Posted Oct 22, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Last season, Marcus Paige played the role of the diminutive UNC rookie point guard assimilating into ACC basketball. Nate Britt will take over that role this year, although Paige will often share the backcourt with his freshman teammate when Roy Williams plays small in the backcourt.

During Paige’s recruitment, Williams told the Marion, Iowa native that his 2001-02 season at Kansas was possibly the most fun he had ever had coaching. The reason being that he started a three-guard lineup with two point guards – Jeff Boschee, Kirk Hinrich and Aaron Miles – to spur an offense that led the country in points (90.9 ppg) and assists (767).

That conversation was relevant as Williams was preparing to play Paige alongside Kendall Marshall in 2012-13.

Marshall’s early departure for the NBA nixed those plans, as well as forcing Paige into a starter’s role without a veteran point guard on the roster to lean on. That won’t be the case for Britt, however; Paige will serve the role as his support system both on and off the court.

“I will play two little guys together sometimes this year,” Williams told reporters at the ACC Operation Basketball media event last week. “... I don’t think I’ll ever play Luke [Davis], Marcus and Nate all three together. That’d be like a team full of jockeys. I’ll play two of the little guys together and Nate has done some really good things.”

It’s a unique look that Paige has embraced thus far.

“I actually love the two point guard lineup,” Paige said. “Whoever gets the outlet just goes and the other fills in on the wing. Nate’s really fast; pushes the ball well. It opens the game up for me a lot, too."

Paige, who played last season at 6-foot-1, 157 pounds, is listed as two inches taller than Britt and as weighing 10 pounds more at 175. While their size may be glaring when on the floor together, their skills are rather complementary.

“It’s pretty interchangeable, but in a set situation, Nate would be the one and I would be the two,” Paige said.

Williams described Britt as a distributor looking to get everybody else involved. And although Paige struggled with his shot the first half of his freshman season, he led the team in 3-point field goal percentage (43.5) over the final 13 games. His shooting ability on the perimeter has allowed Williams to build depth in the backcourt by playing him at both positions.

“Nate’s probably a little bit more of a pure point guard in the sense that he doesn’t look for his shot a whole bunch, but he’s great at setting up others, whereas I have a tendency to shoot the ball a little bit more,” Paige said.

According to Paige, assistant coach Hubert Davis has pushed him to look to score when he’s playing off the ball, which is a new – and welcomed – addition to his role.

“I love it because it allows me to do different things on the court,” Paige said. “It allows me to become more of a scorer and be more aggressive offensively. We’re both guards; we know how to play the game and we understand spacing.”

Sophomore forward Brice Johnson pointed to Paige’s presence as being a critical factor in Britt’s rapid progression in learning the offense.

“It’s unique because you have a new point guard coming in that’s still learning and you have the returning starting point guard right there to tell what to do, so Nate can learn on the go,” Johnson said. “In practice when they’re running together, Marcus will help him out. If Nate forgets something, Marcus can make the calls.”

While senior guard Leslie McDonald has primarily worked alongside Paige at the two-spot in practice, the two point guard lineup - which seemed liked offseason banter in June and July -- is proving to be a legitimate option in October.

“I think we’re going to see that more than I expected to see it this summer,” Paige said. “I did expect to see it some, but I think it’s something Coach can really work with. Hopefully he thinks the same thing.”

Williams told reporters that he's "convinced" that his two point guard look will be on display in the season opener against Oakland.


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