North Carolina sophomore P.J. Hairston has decided to return to Chapel Hill for his junior season, instead of entering the NBA Draft. Hairston was instrumental in getting the Tar Heels into the NCAA tournament during one of the team’s more challenging seasons.
Hairston’s return means retaining a dominant scorer for North Carolina head coach Roy Williams for next season. He led the Tar Heels with 14.6 points per game. Hairston began playing the designated power forward position after North Carolina lost by 26 points to Miami on Feb. 9, and the Tar Heels finished the season with a 9-4 record following the move.
The Tar Heels advanced to the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament and were eliminated by Kansas. With Hairston returning, teammates Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo may be more interested in staying another season with the school.
If Hairston can convince his teammates to wait one more season before receiving NBA paychecks, North Carolina would have a chance to challenge Duke and Miami for the ACC title next season. He will likely return to his natural shooting guard position with Dexter Strickland graduating this year.
Being eliminated in the second round used to be a complete shock for the North Carolina basketball program, but the Tar Heels have fallen off of their elite pedestal over the past few years. Hairston’s return, along with his teammates considering the NBA Draft, could place North Carolina once again atop the national basketball scene.
John Engel is a Pac-12 basketball writer for Rant Sports and also works for ESPNLA 710 AM radio in Los Angeles. Follow John on Twitter: @engelsportsguy.