The Tar Heels might be 7-3, the AP No. 14-ranked team in the country. But even before Wednesday’s puzzling loss against Texas, North Carolina looked shaky, lost amid speculation over whether two veteran players would ever return to the lineup. The outlook got worse today. P.J. Hairston, a potential first-round pick in this summer’s NBA Draft and last season’s leading scorer, will not play at all this year for UNC. The school announced earlier today it will not seek reinstatement from the NCAA for Hairston.
“I am extremely disappointed for P.J., his family and our team as he will no longer be playing basketball at North Carolina,” head coach Roy Williams said in a news release. “P.J. made mistakes and I was very disappointed by his actions and now he is suffering the very difficult consequences. He is not a bad kid; he just made some mistakes.”
After a summer of mounting problems that included a speeding charge in mid May as well as being charged with marijuana possession and driving without a license in June — both instances coming in cars linked to a convicted felon — Hairston’s status this year was a weekly issue. When would he play? When would he start practicing? Would he be in shape? How would he fit in? That likely affected the Heels, as they’ve been up and down all season.
Fellow guard Leslie McDonald was reinstated recently, a bonus, but McDonald, despite scoring 15 points in his first game back, isn’t the difference-maker that the 6-5 Hairston is. In last season’s final 13 games, Hairston averaged over 18 points per game and has the offensive ability that makes NBA front offices salivate. He can shoot it, making the second-most three-pointers in one season in school history last year. He can take defenders off the dribble. He can get hot at any minute. This likely won’t affect his draft stock — that’ll depend on how he spends his time between now and June — but it’ll certainly damage UNC’s Final Four aspirations.
via USA Today
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