Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

After a tough end, North Carolina stars look towards the NBA Draft

June 8, 2016 Columns No Comments

Villanova’s national championship win will long be remembered for the finish. It’s also true that one reason it will long be remembered is that the Wildcats were not exactly loaded with can’t-miss NBA prospects – indeed, when the book is written on that team in a couple of years in that context, they may go down as the first team in about 30 years to win without a future first round draft pick on the roster. What is less remembered, though, is that they beat a team led by seniors, one of whom was nearly a hero but instead is mainly a footnote in that game.

There are reasons why it’s forgotten that North Carolina was led by seniors Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson. Mainly, it’s the fact that the Tar Heels came up on the short end. Partly, it’s that Paige missed time with an injury during the season. Perhaps a bigger contributor than that is the fact that a pair of Tar Heels declared for the NBA Draft as early entrants after the season, but both returned to school.

Paige and Johnson seemingly went in opposite directions in their college careers. Paige was thrust into a bigger role than first expected as a freshman thanks to Kendall Marshall going pro a year earlier, but by the time he was a junior many saw him as a strong All-America candidate. But he wasn’t always 100 percent as a junior and struggled shooting at times, and as a senior missed six games early on with a broken wrist. Johnson, meanwhile, was the “potential” player who broke out as a junior, thought about going to the NBA early, then returned and had an All-America senior season.

Johnson carried the Tar Heels for long stretches, and there were games the Tar Heels lost where they simply didn’t get him the ball enough. He may have worked his way into the first round based on the season he had, but as workouts and the combine start to take precedence in the minds of scouts and team executives, you get the feeling he’ll likely end up in the second round, especially since he really needs to get stronger to guard post players in the NBA that are more mature physically.

In the national championship game, Paige hit an acrobatic three-pointer with 4.7 seconds left to tie the game. It looked like he had his Mario Chalmers moment that would live on forever, recalling when the Kansas guard tied the 2008 national championship game to send it to overtime, a game Kansas ended up winning.

Then Kris Jenkins changed all of that, as we know.

Jenkins didn’t change the stellar career that Johnson and Paige had, or that Paige is simply one of the best young men you could meet in college basketball. Even as he was getting a lot of acclaim, he was always a thoughtful, grounded young man, and one who really embraced the college experience. His senior night speech was memorable and spoke to the kind of young man he is. He was the first player in program history – remember, this is a program with a few dozen jerseys in the rafters of its home arena – to be named a permanent team captain in three seasons.

While Johnson might even get into the first round, Paige is almost certain not to be. Despite having a lot going for him, North Carolina’s 11th-all-time leading scorer is thought to be a possible undrafted player. While he can score, both getting to the rim and with a nice mid-range game, he needs to gain strength and some think he’s more of a shooting guard than a point guard despite having a 2.2 assist-to-turnover ratio in four years and cutting down on his turnovers every single year.

Paige will seek to get those questions answered in the final two weeks before the NBA Draft. Most likely, he will have to fight his way on to a roster via a summer league and/or playing in the NBDL or overseas. His intangibles are off the charts, which reduces the areas of concern for a team that might give him a chance.

The way his college career ended – going from potential hero to footnote in seconds – might change the narrative of Paige’s college story with a less happy ending than it might have had. It might not have changed the end result in terms of whether or not he and Johnson left with a championship ring, since overtime would have no guarantee. It won’t change the NBA possibilities in front of either player as they attempt to become the latest Tar Heels to reach the NBA. More so than many who have come before them, they have some work to do to get there, as neither is a can’t-miss prospect.

And by that point, the heartbreaking end to their college careers can be long forgotten, their careers remembered for the many good times.

Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Coaching Changes

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 26, 2018

April 27, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we spend a lot of time looking at what the Commission on College Basketball came up with, as their report was just produced. We also look at the NBA Draft and transfers, which have many rosters potentially in flux for next season.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 6, 2018

April 6, 2018 by

In our first podcast in the postseason, we look back one more time on the NCAA Tournament, which was just what we needed at this time. We also look at the NIT, CBI and CIT, as well as important transactions with players leaving early for the NBA Draft and coaching changes.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 3, 2018

April 3, 2018 by

The 2018 national championship is in the books, and with it another season of college basketball. We break down the national championship game and some of its implications to wrap up the season.

College Basketball Tonight – April 1, 2018

April 2, 2018 by

Welcome to our Final Four edition of College Basketball Tonight. In this edition, we look ahead to Monday’s national championship game, and bring on two guests – long-time Villanova radio play-by-play broadcaster Ryan Fannon and Radford head coach Mike Jones – to get their thoughts and insights on the game.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – April 1, 2018

April 1, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, we break d own the national semifinals, where one game went back and forth while the other was never really a ballgame thanks to an impressive performance for the ages by the winning team.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.