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Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson — brothers on the court

Adrian Broaddus

HOUSTON — As Brice Johnson gazes in awe at his personal locker, Marcus Paige stares at his unlaced shoes. The national championship game April 4 against Villanova will be the last time the duo will throw on their jerseys, lace up their baby blue and white sneakers and play for the North Carolina Tar heels.

Opposites attract when it comes to the two—Johnson is more introverted, quiet and leads by example, while Paige is eccentric, talkative and vocalizes his leadership strategies. Johnson plays at the low post as a forward and Paige runs the offense as the point guard. Despite the differences, both standouts are almost inseparable on and off the court.

“He’s (Paige) a really good dude,” Johnson said. “He has smart remarks every once and a while, but I love him.”

Their friendship began four years ago when they were both assigned as roommates. At first their personalities did not click, but four years later, the two are like brothers.

“He was quiet (Brice), didn’t say much,” Paige said. “Now he’s all over the place and very animated.”

After almost 300 games played, the duo will play in their final game as collegiate athletes in the championship game.

“It’s hard to believe (these are my last games),” Paige said. “It’ll hit me when we get back to Chapel Hill, when we don’t have practice and I have to clean out my locker.”

Aside from sharing their last game, both Johnson and Paige have etched their names in the UNC history books as some of the program’s greats.

With three 3-pointers against Syracuse, Paige has the most 3-pointers in North Carolina history (295) and is 12th on the program’s all-time scoring list (1,823).

“He (Paige) has been one of the most decorated, most discussed, most adorned with awards,” head coach Roy Williams of the Tar Heels said. “He’s covered everything from his freshman year–to being one of the most criticized, to one of the most effective players ever in North Carolina history.”

Johnson is not only going down in the Tar Heel’s record books for scoring; but his 1,027 career rebounds places him tied for fifth in school history. His 1,702 career points ranks him 19th overall, and if he makes more than seven points in the championship, Johnson will be at 17th place.

“I’ve seen the guy grow leaps and bounds mentally,” Williams said. “I’ve seen him grow mentally, his work ethic, what he’s able to produce. I think he’s gotten more confidence as he’s played.”

In high school they were outstanding as well. On one end, Paige was with a band of four seniors, while he was a junior, on a basketball squad that won the state championship. That is when Paige’s leadership abilities, and the fact that he was only a junior, caught the eye of Williams in the recruiting process.

“It comes natural to him—he’s a point guard,” Williams said. “When he came to us, I handed him the ball because Kendall (Marshall) had left to go to the NBA. I said, ‘you’re going to run this thing and I think you’re going to be great. We’ll live with the minutes; just keep being your best every day and we’ll get better.’”

Although he won two back-to-back state titles for his individual jumping career in track and field, Johnson does not know what it is like to win a title on a team. During his senior year, his team made it to the state championship and lost.

“At the end of the day, I’ve gotten a lot of individual awards, but I want to win a team award,” Johnson said. “I’m not a selfish person, so that’s why I say stuff like that. I do recognize that I may be one of the greats to play at North Carolina, but I want to be known as being on one of the best teams at North Carolina.”

In their 83-66 win over Syracuse April 2, both Johnson and Paige were standouts in the game. Johnson led the team with 16 points and nine boards, while Paige scored 13 with three key assists. They both are expected to be threats against the Villanova Wildcats.

As they exit the locker room, the two nod at each other in approval. This will be the last time Paige finds Johnson in the paint for a basket, the last time they will sit in the huddle and the last chance they will get to hoist a championship banner.

Adrian Broaddus  may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Adrian Broaddus, Sports Editor
Adrian Broaddus is the sports editor for The Prospector. He is a junior multimedia journalism major with a minor in political science.   Adrian was born and raised in El Paso, TX, and is a graduate of Franklin high school. He entered college in the fall of 2015 in hopes to better his career in journalism.   Along with sports, Adrian enjoys writing music reviews, perspective columns and news stories on politics.   Although he is pursuing his degree in journalism, Adrian would like to go to law school and be an attorney while doing part-time work in journalism.  
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Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson — brothers on the court