DES MOINES — The greatest prep basketball player ever to grace the Cedar Rapids-Marion area ended his career Saturday afternoon by becoming its greatest scorer. Probably.
Marcus Paige had 28 points in Linn-Mar’s 66-49 loss to Ankeny in the Class 4A state tournament consolation game at Wells Fargo Arena, allowing him to surpass former Lion and University of Wisconsin standout Jason Bohannon for the most career points by a Metro player. Probably.
Linn-Mar thinks Bohannon scored 1,679 points in his career, though the Iowa High School Athletic Association lists him with 1,698. Paige finished with 1,695.
It should be pointed out the IHSAA also lists 1950s Marion great Hugh Leffingwell with almost 1,900 career points, though it is believed he played on varsity only slightly more than two seasons and had just over 1,300.
“I have a lot of emotions going through me right now,” Paige said. “I’ll obviously be able to look back with a more positive reflection in a couple of days because this didn’t turn out quite the way we wanted it to. In terms of my career as a whole, I couldn’t be happier. Having one season with a state championship and being with these guys, a different group, a young group, and going as far as we did this year, I couldn’t be happier.”
Paige had state tournament finishes of 1, 2, 3 and 4, with the title coming last season. With almost an entirely new supporting cast this season, he saw his role change from think-pass first to scorer. He came into this tournament as the state’s leading scorer (28.4 points per game).
“It was a lot different for me,” he said. “I think it added another dimension to my game. I got to work on scoring, facing multiple defenders, game-planned defenses (against him). It helps. But I think more the leadership thing was bigger than scoring. I had to be a leader for these guys so they’re ready to do it again next year.”
Paige will play in the McDonald’s All-American Game in Chicago on March 28 and will play in the Jordan Brand Classic in North Carolina a couple of weeks later. He’ll graduate in late May and begins his college career (at least academically) at North Carolina on June 14.
“Good friend, good guy overall,” said Linn-Mar’s Jimmy Roth. “He works hard, and if someone is slacking, he’ll let you know about it. That’s what you want a player like him to do. It’s been great to play with him and be around him.”
“I’m excited to watch his career develop,” Robertson said. “Because I think he’s really special, and he’s only going to get better. He’s going to add weight, add strength. He has great quickness, great hops, he shoots it well. And the thing that he has that most kids at this age don’t is just an understanding of the game. His basketball IQ is second to none that I’ve seen at this level. He’s going to be a star.”
Robertson was asked if Paige has truly remained as humble as it appears during his meteoric rise from ultra-skinny freshman point guard to one of the best preps the state has produced.
“He is who he is. He is a true gentleman, a great student,” Robertson said. “I think the biggest thing at this tournament was that (last-second) pass in the Dubuque Senior game that nobody thought he was going to throw. Then yesterday, he’s walking off the floor after a semifinal loss (to Iowa City West). As defeated as he was, there were a bunch of kids that wanted his autograph. He signed for them before he walked off the floor. If that doesn’t show you what he’s all about …”
“Probably winning a state championship was the highlight, but there are too many off-the-court memories to count,” Paige said. “We had a lot of fun, and Coach does a great job with that. I couldn’t be happier than being a part of the Linn-Mar program.”
It was pointed out to Paige that he’ll probably also always cherish that 49-point substate final game a couple of weeks ago against Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
“Yeah, but I’ll forget that before I forget all my friends,” he said.
Here is the game boxscore and play by play: