UNC freshman Paige expected to start at PG

Correction: Bobby Frasor is not the only UNC point guard under Roy Williams to start his first game as a freshman; Quentin Thomas also did, in 2004-05, when Raymond Felton had to sit out the first game of the season because of a suspension. The story now reflects the correction.

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Only two North Carolina freshmen, Quentin Thomas in 2004-05 and Bobby Frasor in 2005-06, have started their first game career game at point guard under coach Roy Williams.

But it sounds as if there will soon be a third.

Asked about the battle to replace starting ballhandler Kendall Marshall, Williams said Thursday he expects freshman Marcus Paige -- and not senior Dexter Strickland -- to start at point.

The Tar Heels open preseason practice Saturday.

“You shouldn’t ever do this, but I did it with Tyler Hansbrough and it worked -- I expect Marcus Paige to be there,’’ Williams said during the team’s media day when asked about the starting slot (he doesn't usually announce who he expects to start this early, especially freshmen). “And part of it is that Dexter is still somewhat limited in what we’re going to do with him at practice, and Dexter’s never been a point guard; that has something to do with it too.

“Marcus Paige has a chance to be really good. He’s a little rascal … who does know how to play but he has savvy and toughness and so I’m really counting on him to be good.”

Strickland was the starting shooting guard and backup point guard last season until he tore the ACL in his right knee on Jan. 19 at Virginia Tech. He was fully cleared to play on Aug. 27, but said Wednesday he’s not quite 100 percent.

“I’m probably like 96 percent, but it’s coming along good,’’ he said. “I’m still doing rehab each and every day. It’s still a process getting back, but I’m ready to go.”

Strickland said he’d like to play point guard this season, but said he can also continue to play shooting guard. Who starts, he said before Williams’ news conference, “is up to Coach.”

The 6-foot Paige averaged just more than 28 points per game at Linn-Marr (Iowa) High, earning McDonald’s All-America honors. He had a stress fracture in his left foot during the offseason, but participated in offseason pick-up games.

Paige was not available to talk to the media as UNC freshmen are not allowed to talk to the press until after the play their first regular-season game.

The Tar Heels must replace four starters off last year’s team, which reached the NCAA regional finals.