UNC’s Marcus Paige could return sooner rather than later

North Carolina Tar Heels point guard Marcus Paige suffered a broken hand last week that was expected to keep him out for several weeks, including a game against former ACC rival Maryland on December 1.

However, new reports suggest that Paige could return to the hardwood ahead of his initial timetable of three to four weeks. According to a tweet from InsideCarolina, that period was not exclusively for his recovery.

Marcus Paige says the 3-4 week window for his return is intended for him to be at 100 percent, not just able to play.

— InsideCarolina (@InsideCarolina) November 11, 2015

If that’s the case, Tar Heels fans can breathe a sigh of relief.

Per Andrew Carter of The News & Observer, Paige already has one game in mind in terms of playing, against Northern Iowa on November 21.

My spies at the UNC presser today tell me Marcus Paige isn't ruling out playing at Northern Iowa on Nov. 21. That's his homecoming game.

— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) November 11, 2015

Paige is from Iowa, so that game is something of a homecoming for him, but that takes away from the real gist of this report.

Paige, above all else, is a competitor. He is a National Player of the Year candidate for a reason and will do anything to help No. 1 UNC to an NCAA Tournament and a national championship. Last season, as a junior, he averaged 14.1 points and 4.5 assists per game, plus 1.7 steals, and he wants to close out his collegiate career with a bang.

That all being said, even if he is not at 100 percent, definitely don’t count out Paige to find a way to step on the court for UNC if it means helping his team, even in a limited role.

UNC opens the season at home against Temple on Friday. Tipoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. ET on CBS Sports Network.

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*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports