UNC basketball sustained a big blow when P.J. Hairston hit the floor during its 82-70 win over Boston College.
The sophomore guard out of Greensboro, NC, was diagnosed with a concussion after colliding with teammate, Dexter Strickland. With the possibility of Hairston missing a couple games, it will be on Leslie McDonald and J.P. Tokoto to step up in his absence.
Through most of the season, Hairston has been a key contributor on both sides of the floor for North Carolina. His game on Tuesday night was no exception, as he was the cog in the Tar Heels 19-4 run in the first half.
In just 12 minutes of action, Hairston provided 14 points on 4-of-4 shooting beyond the arc, to go along with three assists, one steal and a charge taken.
Then the unthinkable happened.
BC's Patrick Heckmann was driving on Hairston when Strickland came flying in to give help. The two met in a mid-air collision that left Hairston writhing on the floor.
Accoring to The Daily Tar Heel, Strickland put all the blame on his shoulders after the game:
That was my fault, man. I apologized to him because I should have been in help position at the time. All I remember, I jumped up to contest the shot, and I felt his face hit my elbow and my hip, and I just saw him go down.
Hairston would stay down until the medical staff, Roy Williams and even his mother looked over him. He was helped to his feet, and tried to walk off the floor with the help of his teammates. After three steps, he became woozy and almost fell.
He would later be taken off on a stretcher.
No timetable has been set for Hairston's return. One would assume he'd miss at least a week, considering that's how long it took Reggie Bullock to return to practice after what was deemed a "mild" concussion.
Inside Carolina reported this afternoon that Hairston is "doubtful" for Virginia Tech on Saturday night. “We’re certainly pleased that P.J. is feeling better, but it is unlikely that he will play on Saturday,” said UNC athletics trainer Chris Hirth.
Facing the possibility of his third-leading scorer being out for the next two games, Roy Williams will need someone to step up in his place.
Fortunately for the Tar Heels, Leslie McDonald is slated to return on Feb. 2 against Virginia Tech. The junior guard was suspended for three games for not taking care of his "responsibilities as a student-athlete," McDonald said.
How much he will play is the biggest question at this time. Just because he is eligible to play again, doesn't mean Ol' Roy will give him a normal dose of minutes. It's even more unlikely he would start, as the coach may send one final message to the upperclassman.
Though McDonald's contributions fall short of the bar Hairston raised, he is the second-most efficient three-point shooter on the squad at 43.1 percent. He also has two 20-point games under his belt this season, albeit against inferior competition.
Virginia Tech may fall into that category, as its defense surrenders 74.3 points per game.
The other player Roy will likely be looking to is J.P. Tokoto. The freshman has stepped up his game over the last three contests, and Coach Williams has rewarded him with playing time.
Tokoto has played 38 minutes in that span, and has produced 21 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. His defense has also been solid. He's been making big-time hustle plays and looks much more comfortable shooting of late.
Tokoto is 10-of-18 from the field in his last three games.
On the flip side, he was 0-for-3 on three-pointers and gave away six turnovers. Tokoto is an excellent passer, but extremely aggressive with his dishing.
But when a shooting guard/small forward is lobbing alley-oops and handing out no-look dimes, it's tough to argue the overall result. He will learn with time, and those turnovers will go down.
He didn't have any on Tuesday night, and that's one spot nobody minds a goose egg.
There is no doubt, leading scorers, James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock will have to step up in Hariston's potential absence. But they can't do it alone.
McDonald and Tokoto will also have to be at the top of their respective games.