Outside of the Paige residence in Marion, Iowa the cement basketball court on which the siblings grew up is now painted — half red, half light blue.
One section is for the Tar Heels and Marcus, the junior guard on the North Carolina men’s basketball team. The other represents the Badgers and Morgan, Marcus Paige’s older sister who graduated from Wisconsin in May and now plays professionally in Romania. The Paige siblings are 15 months apart and spent hours playing pickup, practicing dunks on lowered rims and working out with each other on the court for years before their father painted it in honor of their universities.
Now the Paige children’s two schools, UNC and Wisconsin, will clash in the Sweet 16 on Thursday night in Los Angeles. The fourth-seeded Tar Heels beat Harvard and Arkansas in the second and third rounds in Jacksonville, Fla., while the top-seeded Badgers in the West Region defeated Coastal Carolina and Oregon in Omaha, Neb.
“The paint is blue,” Morgan joked earlier in the season about the backyard court. “I graduated, so now that my basketball career is done I start seeing less and less red around the house. I’m like, ‘I know, I understand, I get it. But do we just throw it all away? Are we just a blue family now?’”
Morgan was kidding, but on Thursday night when the lights power up in The STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, Marcus knows that, jokes aside, Morgan will be on his side. For at least one night, she’s told him she can put aside her allegiance to Wisconsin and root for her younger brother and the Tar Heels.
“I know she’s cheering for us — or she better be. That’s what she told me at least,” Marcus said Monday. “She’ll cheer for us. She’s cheered for Wisconsin the entire tournament because she’s friends with a lot of them. But you know — blood runs a little thicker so hopefully she’ll have her Carolina blue on.”
During her four years with the Badgers, Morgan, who also wore jersey No. 5, cemented herself in 18th place in program history in points scored with 1,230. She was third in history in free throw percentage and tied for 10th in 3-pointers made. There was a period when Marcus considered joining her in Wisconsin, where he was recruited for a few years. But the Badgers never offered a scholarship, waiting to see where Wisconsin native J.P. Tokoto would commit.
“That’s kind of weird how that played out,” Paige said. “We’re both here, and I’m pretty sure we’re both happy about it.”
Marcus and Morgan’s mother, Sherryl, said earlier in February that some of her fondest memories of her two children growing up involved the court that is now painted.
“It seemed for a while there that both Morgan and I could beat Marcus,” she said. “But then it got to the point where Morgan and I could no longer beat Marcus anymore and so we kept raising the rim because he was shorter. He didn’t mind that because he was such a competitor.
“Those are good memories.”
Now the siblings will match up again, except this time, it won’t really be a competition at all.
“It’s gonna be a great week!” Morgan tweeted at her brother Tuesday.
Attached, there was a picture of the duo from a year ago — both in Carolina Blue.