“I just want to get better creating my own shot and then also just extending my 3-point range and getting more consistent with that.”
Paige’s All-America honors somehow fall short of embracing his offensive prowess in clutch situations last season. The Marion, Iowa native paced UNC with 17.5 points per game – good for 4th in the ACC – but averaged 19.9 points in eight games against Top-25 opponents.
Paige scored double digits in the second half after posting single digits in the first half 20 times as a sophomore, while scoring 20+ points three times after halftime. UNC played in two overtime games last season and Paige score 10 or more points in both extra periods.
Given his theatrics a year ago, Paige has focused on improving his offensive game to counter defensive game plans geared toward slowing him down.
“I understand that defenses might try to do different things to me this upcoming year,” Paige said. “I saw a little bit of that last year, so just working on being able to do more things and being a little bit more of a dynamic player when the ball is in my hands will help me and help the team when we get in late-clock situations and need to create a shot.”
Instead of relying on the pick-and-roll to create space, having iso options at his disposal will be provide more versatility in those situations.
Paige’s slender frame – he currently checks in at 6-foot-1, 175 pounds – is what it is at this point, although he’s worked to tighten his current body and be able to better handle significant minutes.
“I realize I’m not going to be one of those real stocky guys, but every year I add a couple of pounds and just get more comfortable with my body,” Paige said.
Without Leslie McDonald holding down the two-spot and five point guards on the roster, Paige is prepared to slide over and help out at the off-guard spot, as needed.
“I’m a guard, so I have no problem doing either one,” Paige said. “Obviously, a point guard is what I am and what I will be moving forward, but with the talent that we have on our roster, especially at my position, it’s going to benefit us if I’m able to play off the ball for stretches like I did last year.”
And while the starting two-guard spot is open with Paige at the point, he indicated that freshmen Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson may be the most likely options to fill that role.
The stocked point guard cupboard, however, will apparently be utilized. Roy Williams, according to Paige, has started putting in multiple guard sets during summer practices that he didn’t run last year to take advantage of Nate Britt and Joel Berry.
With experience returning in the front court – Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto will anchor the 3-5 positions – Paige believes he can be an improved player without having to match last season’s production.
“I expect to shoot a higher percentage from the floor and from the 3-point line,” Paige said. “I shouldn’t have to take as many tough shots as I had to take last year at times to create points. We struggled to score a lot in the halfcourt last year against tough defensive teams, but I think this year I won’t have to do that as much.”
That being said, the coaching staff still wants him to attack.
“Coach [Steve] Robinson told me to set the tone with my intensity and my aggressiveness, and if they need to scale me back, they’ll do that, so that’s the mindset I’m going to have going in,” Paige said. “But I wouldn’t expect to average 20 a game or anything like that this year because we’re too talented for that.”
Regardless of his potential scoring average, Paige’s proven track record of scoring at will and in bunches will only grow with an enhanced repertoire.