North Carolina Basketball: Hairston, L-Mac Poised to Be UNC's Next Star Duo

Rollin YeattsFeatured ColumnistAugust 15, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 11:  P.J. Hairston #15 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after he make a 3-point basket in the second half against the Florida State Seminoles during the Final Game of the 2012 ACC Men's Basketball Conference Tournament at Philips Arena on March 11, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

No, I haven't changed my mind about Reggie Bullock. He will still be UNC's go-to guy and the star of the show in Chapel Hill. The MVP of the NC Pro-Am championship is just that good.

But fellow North Carolina Tar Heels P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald managed to share an equal chunk of headlines from the annual event.The two were paired up with "Coach" Rasheed Wallace on the Sheraton Imperial squad and combined for 50 points in a win over The Athlete's Foot back in July.

They would eventually lose to Bullock's Banks Law Firm team in the tournament semifinals, but Hairston finished the regular season with MVP honors.

After a 2011-12 season both would like to forget, this duo is poised to light up the scoreboard when the season tips off in November. McDonald missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in the 2011 NC Pro-Am, while P.J. Hairston had a poor showing for most of his freshman campaign—shooting 30.8 percent from the floor and 27.3 beyond the arc.

As I've said before, I don't like to put too much into numbers at the NC Pro-Am. The opposing defenses aren't exactly up to par with the competition they will be seeing in the fall. However, they are facing some players they will face during ACC play and it never hurts to make impression.

I'd say Hairston did just that when he dropped 49 points in last Wednesday's game. I don't care what the event was or who was guarding him—or not guarding him—that's still baller and shouldn't be overlooked. Neither should his posterizing former Tar Heel great Jerry Stackhouse.

After all, getting to the rim was a major focus of Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston this summer and that will have a major impact on their performance in the coming season.

In an interview with Inside Carolina's Greg Barnes, Hairston explained why that was a major focus. "It puts pressure on the defense. They know I can shoot already, so they already pressure up on me, so if I go past them, it will confuse them and they won’t know what to do after that."

Their other focus seemed to be getting each other open shots, whether out on the corners or in transition. The chemistry that has developed between these two players was obvious during the summer events and I have no doubt that will carry over to the regular season.

The only question is how much time they will get together on the floor.

The Carolina backcourt is simply loaded this season, with Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald's return to the court. The chances of Hairston and McDonald starting together this season are slim, as Hairston will likely back up Bullock at small forward.

Will McDonald start over Strickland at the 2? He is the better shooter, but Strickland will be entering senior season at Chapel Hill.

That usually doesn't make much of a difference to Coach Williams, though. It's all about winning and he is going to put his best players on the court first.

In the end, it doesn't matter whether this duo starts or not. They will see a heavy dose of action this season, as I expect the loaded Carolina bench to suck up minutes that would usually go to the starters.

There won't be many players averaging 30-plus minutes in 2012-13. Depth, athleticism and range is what this Tar Heels squad is all about—and Roy will squeeze every ounce of that from his players.

And stellar bench play can rock a crowd and deflate opponents just as effectively as the starters. In some ways, even more so.

James Harden and Manu Ginobili are the first to come to mind.

The bottom line is this newly-formed dynamic duo of P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald will get plenty of time on the court together to show off the chemistry they built over the summer months. After all, chemistry is an invaluable aspect of the team game.

They know each other's tendencies, they have a trust and they know where to find each other on the court. And it only makes it easier when they both can light it up from anywhere on the floor.

Opponents, beware.