They travel together, eat together and work together.
And sometimes, they even bathe together.
In every season, just about every team, no matter how big or how small, considers itself a family. The Paige’s are a lot like that, except that their family is, well, a basketball team.
There is Ellis and Sherryl Paige, mother and father, who met at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, playing basketball for the Mustangs.
Then there is Marcus Paige, a freshman point guard at North Carolina, wearing the baby-blue Tar Heel jersey for the first time this fall. And then, last but certainly not least, is Morgan Paige, the newly appointed junior tri-captain of the Wisconsin women’s basketball team.
Regardless of their basketball background, add in any other family member, and they have a great starting five. Yep, basketball is a pretty important thing for the Paige family, making it easy to see why Morgan Paige has become successful.
Paige excelled in high school at Marion High in Marion, Iowa, just five miles from where her mother and father graced the hardwood in college. Honored as an all-state selection in each of her four years at MHS, Paige was tabbed as one of the best women’s basketball players in the region.
According to Jeff Dahn, formerly of the Marion Times, Paige helped her coach tally a record of 83-14 and a state semifinals appearance. That coach, unsurprisingly, was her mother, Sherryl.
Morgan was the star, Sherryl the guidance. Unlike many star athletes and coaches, the two rarely, if ever, butted heads.
“I feel like some people can’t play for their parents,” Paige said. “But I feel like my mom and I had an understanding where, as soon as we’re in the gym, it’s business, and she’s not my mom anymore and that respect level is there.”
“I really enjoyed playing for my mom. It was really nice to see her outside of family life. She cares so much about her players. … It’s awesome to see that double side of her.”
The two made basketball look easy as a duo, but little brother point guard Marcus threw a wrench — or better yet, a bounce pass — into the system.
If Morgan set the bar high, Marcus cleared it, and then some. Attending Linn-Mar High School, a nearby school in Marion, Marcus splashed onto the basketball scene, playing varsity his freshman season, much like Morgan.
But Marcus one-upped his sister by winning a state championship his junior season, eventually being named the top point guard in the 2012 class and committing to play basketball under the brightest of lights at North Carolina.
Although Marcus playing at a neighboring school made it difficult for Sherryl and Morgan to watch his games, he made things easier for Morgan on a basketball level.
“We’re actually really close and even closer now since we’ve gone to college,” Morgan said in describing her relationship with Marcus. “He’s so far away now that it’s become really important for us to talk, and a lot of times it’s on a basketball level.”
What better level for the siblings to connect than the game they adore? Although admittedly Morgan surrendered her hold over the hard-fought games of 1-on-1 in seventh grade, their shared commitment to the game of basketball is one that benefits both of them.
Working together over the summer, Marcus helped Morgan with her ball handling, her self-noted weakness. Throughout their years together, Marcus provided the enduring work ethic of a “gym rat,” one that Morgan admires.
“He was a role model for me in high school,” Paige said. “He had a drive to just go, it didn’t matter what time of the day, he just wanted to go to the gym. Sometimes I’m like, ‘Hmmm, not today. I can’t shoot with you today, I just can’t do it.’”
Yet, the more experienced Morgan gives quite a bit to the relationship as well, yielding all types of advice to her brother in his first semester as a student-athlete.
“He’s a teenage boy, let’s be serious,” Paige said. “I can sit and talk with him after games or we can watch different game together — just chop it up and really learn the game from a different perspective. And I think that’s awesome.”
Similar to guiding her brother, the Wisconsin women’s team will look for Paige to guide the squad as she was named a tri-captain for the season. Paige is the only junior captain, joined by seniors Taylor Wurtz and Tiera Stephen.
All three were picked by their teammates and all three bring a different type of leadership to the floor for Wisconsin.
“I’m a little more vocal than most,” Paige said. “Tiera is a bit more fiery, and Tay is just a workhorse.”
Regardless of her vocal, forthright ways on the court, Paige is actually lauded for her under-the-radar type of approach to the game.
“Morgan, she’s sneaky. You’ll just see her, and the next thing you know, she’s got 15 points,” Stephen said. “But you’ve got to give Morgan her credit; she gets the job done.”
Assistant coach Jayme Callahan has only been around Paige for five months, but has already noticed how important she is to the squad. After joining Bobbie Kelsey’s staff in June, Callahan quickly realized that as the shooting guard, Paige plays an integral role for Wisconsin.
Her work ethic and her basketball intelligence — two things she can attribute to her family of gym rats — have shined the brightest in Callahan’s eyes.
“She goes hard all the time and is very coachable,” Callahan noted. “Her knowledge of the game is very keen. … She knows the game very well and is able to translate that on the court.”
The Badgers will need it more than ever from Paige this season. As Wurtz returns from battling a preseason injury, Paige is the next highest returning scorer for UW.
She makes it enjoyable too. Head coach Bobbie Kelsey noted Paige is always smiling and never upset. With the game of basketball so deeply ingrained within her family, it’s easy to understand that the game she plays still remains a game. Basketball for Paige, just like seemingly anyone else with the same surname, is just what comes natural.
And for Wisconsin, the basketball makeup of Paige is just one part of something larger building itself at Wisconsin under Kelsey.
“[Basketball has literally been in our DNA forever,” Paige said. “I can’t imagine going through a day without thinking or doing some type of basketball activity.”
Follow Sean on Twitter