Junior Marcus Paige picks UNC

Originally Published: December 11, 2010
By Dave Telep | ESPN Recruiting

Whether he's at Kansas or North Carolina, Roy Williams treats the state of Iowa as if it's a suburb to his current location. Raef LaFrentz, Nick Collison, Kirk Hinrich and Harrison Barnes, all from Iowa, each elected to play for Williams.

On Saturday, point guard Marcus Paige (Marion, Iowa/Linn-Marr) became the fifth Iowan to cast his lot with the coach.

The No. 27-ranked player in the 2012 class and the third-best PG is UNC's first pledge from the junior class. Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Virginia and just about everyone who needs a high-level point guard next season had made overtures to him.

Hank Huddleson, the head coach of Martin Bros., which also produced Hinrich and Collison, thinks Paige has a chance to be the best player -- not just point guard -- to come through his program. Huddleson indicated Williams made the commitment to personally recruit Paige.

"I know that Carolina was in late on him with Harrison. They made up tons of ground. With Hinrich and Collison, he was relentless in their recruiting," said Huddleson. "I know that he told Paige that he would see him every time he could see him. He said he wasn't sending his assistants, he said he was coming. It was like the big dog took him by the horns and went with it."

Paige wasn't in a hurry to make a pledge but visited UNC during the season and was taken by the Heels.

"I think there were a couple of moments," Paige said of the process. "I was planning on taking my time but talking to him and visiting was huge. Some of the things he said about the guys he recruits and the sincerity meant a lot. That was big."

The junior samples from a number of point guards, one in particular.

"Looking at the guys in the league, I don't play like a whole lot of them," said Paige. "I have some qualities that some of them have. I try to model my game after a Chris Paul because he does everything well and he's a leader."

At last year's NBA Camp, current NBA players singled out Paige as the best one-on-one player in camp. The lefty, despite being one of the youngest players in attendance, took control of his club and demonstrated the ability to lead a team and keep those around him involved. A month later, he knocked down the game-winning 3-pointer in a contest at the AAU Nationals. Whether as a scorer or runner of a club, Paige scores high marks. His commitment is likely to cause a ripple effect, not only for UNC but in the shallow junior class of point guards.

"I think it sets a load of dominoes into effect," Huddleson said.

L.J. Rose (Houston, Texas/Second Baptist) is the top point guard left on the board and he's about to become bombarded with even more attention. When there's a shallow pool of talent at a position like there is with junior point guards, each big commitment has coaches inching closer to their personal panic buttons.

For the Tar Heels, Paige thinks he can help in recruiting right off the bat. J.P. Tokoto (Menomonee Falls, Wis./Menomonee Falls) is also a prime UNC target. He has a relationship with UNC's newest commitment.

"J.P. was on my team at Nike Camp and we have a pretty good relationship, so I might try and talk to him a little," Paige said. "I think J.P. has a chance if I can talk to him a little bit."

In a press release, Paige cited his relationship with Williams, the history of Carolina basketball and the opportunity to play for a national championship as factors in his decision.

It seems like Williams has used that pitch before, in Iowa, to different players. Like the four standouts from his state that came before him, Paige continues Williams' recruiting dominance in Iowa -- Williams' favorite suburb.

Dave Telep is the senior basketball recruiting analyst for ESPN.com. His college basketball scouting service is used by more than 225 colleges and numerous NBA teams. He can be reached at espndt@gmail.com. Don't forget to follow him on Twitter.