Marcus Paige: From Linn-Mar to galactic emperor

North Carolina sophomore has 35 points, game-winner Wednesday

Published: February 26 2014 | 9:22 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 4:13 am in

Three Februarys ago, I saw Linn-Mar High's boys' basketball team play at Cedar Rapids Jefferson.

Jefferson had senior big man Jarrod Uthoff, who scored 21 of his 26 points after halftime. But Linn-Mar had guard Matt Bohannon. He scored 30. Bohannon made five 3-pointers and scored 17 points Wednesday night for Northern Iowa Wednesday night in its 73-54 win over Southern Illinois.

Oh, the Lions also had a junior point guard named Marcus Paige. He also scored 30 that night at Jeff.

"I told my staff we're watching a future NBA player," Jefferson Coach Stu Ordman said after that game, a 70-64 Linn-Mar win.

Uthoff, now an Iowa third-year sophomore at Iowa, was Iowa's "Mr. Basketball" in 2011. Paige was given that honor the following year. It won't be the last award he wins.

Wednesday night in Raleigh, Paige was phenomenal. He scored 31 of his career-high 35 points after halftime, and drove for the winning basket with 0.9 seconds left in North Carolina's 85-84 overtime triumph at North Carolina State.

Here are a collection of tweets about Paige after the game:

How about this steal?

Here's my column from that game between the Lions and J-Hawks three years ago:

CEDAR RAPIDS -- To these eyes, nothing about what was witnessed at Tuesday night's boys' basketball game between Linn-Mar and Cedar Rapids Jefferson wasn't good.

The gym was packed on a weeknight, with the student bodies of both schools well-represented at Jefferson . The kids were fired up, but behaved. So were the adults who filled the bleachers on the other side of the gym.

And the basketball was stellar. Linn-Mar won a well-played, entertaining contest between two fine teams, 70-64, to improve to 20-0.

The talent on display? Well, how many prep basketball games in America that night featured three future Division I college players? When Linn-Mar has played Cedar Rapids Washington this season, that number was probably higher since Washington has Iowa recruit Josh Oglesby and another likely D-I player in Wes Washpun.

What the three D-I players-in-waiting did Tuesday at Jefferson was pretty cool. With frontcourt starters Josh Montague and Ian McBrayer (good for a combined 20 points per game) out with injuries, guards Matt Bohannon and Marcus Paige stepped up and then some. They worked liked dogs in a newly minted zone defense and elevated their offensive games.

Both scored 30 points. Paige went coast-to-coast for the game's first two points. Bohannon swished his first 3-point try, gritting his teeth and gently pumping his fist in a controlled fury. The Lions had 18 points over their first seven possessions and threatened to make it a blowout.

Jefferson didn't allow it. Its D-I player, Wisconsin signee Jarrod Uthoff , was held to five first-half points, but he and his teammates scrapped and were down by just 32-29 at halftime.

Linn-Mar led the whole second half, but couldn't get comfortable until the final seconds. The 6-foot-8 Uthoff scored 21 points in the second half.

"By far, he's the best big man in the state of Iowa," Linn-Mar Coach Chris Robertson said.

But Robertson has the best collection of players, led by junior point guard Paige , a North Carolina commit. If you haven't seen Paige , believe the hype. He's calm and explosive, smart and smooth.

"I told my staff we're watching a future NBA player," Jefferson Coach Stu Ordman said. "He's certainly raised his level of game. He seems to be able to do whatever they need him to do."

Bohannon, a 6-4 guard, is kind of like how Doug McDermott was last year at Ames. McDermott was eclipsed in attention by teammate Harrison Barnes, now at North Carolina. But McDermott was darn good himself and is starting as a freshman at Creighton.

Bohannon's brothers, Jason and Zach, played for state champions at Linn-Mar. It may be Matt's turn.

"He's a winner," Robertson said.

Uthoff, meanwhile, could become the state's "Mr. Basketball." He leads the state in scoring with 26.2 points a game. His main competition, which always goes to a senior, may be Oglesby.

"I think the exciting thing with Jarrod Uthoff is he's just tapping into his potential," Ordman said. "If he stays healthy and develops, he could be a super valuable player at Wisconsin and maybe have a career in the NBA."

The last Cedar Rapids-Marion player in major league pro basketball was Bob Netolicky of the ABA's Indiana Pacers in the early 1970s. So two possible future NBA players in our midst? "Possible" is the operative word, and Ordman knows it. But ...

"It sure wouldn't surprise me," Ordman said. "I've been coaching here 14 years, and the other player I saw in that time who I thought really had a chance was Kirk Hinrich (of Sioux City, who is in his eighth NBA season)."

Name a metro area in Iowa that has had a collection of talented players at one time to what we have here this winter. I can't.

(Little did I know how good Doug McDermott was or would become. He and second-year Golden State Warrior Harrison Barnes were teammates at Ames High four years ago.)


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