It really hurts having to write the word “former” before mentioning North Carolina Tar Heel guard P.J. Hairston, but that is the reality of it. As all of you know, Hairston was expelled from team for receiving impermissible benefits, and it had a huge impact on Tar Heel country. The guard lead the team in scoring last season, and many believing that with him in the lineup, the team could be far more successful than they have been this season. This year is shaping up to be one to forget for Tar Heel fans between the many game losses and the loss of Hairston.
Instead of waiting around for the NBA draft, Hairston decided to take his talents to the NBA Development League, more commonly known as the D-League. He is the first player to ever enter the D-League after beginning the season enrolled in college, and he is making a very wise choice. Hairston was a definite NBA prospect already, and now scouts can get a much better look at him throughout the season. He was almost immediately signed by the D-League’s Texas Legends and played in his first game on Jan. 18 against the Austin Toros.
Hairston expectedly came off the bench considering it was his first game on the team, but he played like a veteran starter. His 22 points helped lead the Legends to a victory, and Hairston further showed why he was such an important asset to the Tar Heels during his college days. Keep in mind, he has not played since last season when he was on the Tar Heels, so this was his first game back after a long break. I think I speak for everyone when I say that this was a very impressive performance by an up-and-coming NBA player.
The Tar Heels could really use a performance like this, considering they are at the bottom of the ACC and show no signs of climbing back up to the top. Their shooting is at an all-time low, and Marcus Paige cannot continue to do all of the work in the backcourt. If Hairston was still on the team, then that shooting stat would sky rocket and the Tar Heels’ backcourt would be beyond talented. Losing Hairston was devastating, and it was just as upsetting as the way this season is turning out to be. He was a special player, and as long as the Tar Heels keep playing this poorly, he will be missed tremendously.
On a brighter note, it is always great to see a former Tar Heel player succeed in the future. Hopefully Hairston can continue to dominate in the D-League, get drafted in a reasonable spot, and take his talents into the NBA. With Hairston’s abilities, there is no reason he should not succeed at the next level, but with every success, the reminder that he could be doing that in Tar Heel blue will come back to haunt the fans.