The North Carolina Tar Heels have played the entire season to this point without returning leading scorer P.J. Hairston, and they will finish the campaign without him too.
According to GoHeels.com, the University of North Carolina will not ask the NCAA to reinstate the ineligible junior guard.
Updates from Tuesday, Dec. 24
From Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:
If former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston wants to play in the NBA’s Development League this season, and a D-League franchise wants to sign him, there’s nothing in the league’s rules that would preclude that.
According to D-League spokesperson Joanna Shapiro, if a player is ruled ineligible by the NCAA (as Hairston was) and he’s at least 18 and his high school class has graduated (applicable), he’s eligible to sign a D-League contract.
Shapiro added that once a player signs a pro contract, D-League or otherwise, he immediately becomes eligible for the NBA draft the following spring.
Updates from Saturday, Dec. 22
From Inside Carolina:
Team had players-only meeting with PJ Hairston after news broke. "The overall mood was we felt for P.J.," JP Tokoto said.— InsideCarolina (@InsideCarolina) December 22, 2013
The decision was ultimately made because Hairston's off-court antics made reinstatement impossible, per the school's official press release.
"Unfortunately P.J. made a number of mistakes that placed his eligibility at risk and the University's joint review with the NCAA made it clear that seeking reinstatement for P.J. would not be possible," says director of athletics Bubba Cunningham. "The University thanks him for his contributions to Carolina Basketball."
News Observer reporter Andrew Carter provides the Hairston family's statement:
“We are displeased with the University of North Carolina’s decision not to submit the necessary paperwork to the NCAA requesting to have P.J. reinstated,” Hairston’s family said. “This process has been long, and for to end without having a final decision from the governing body is a shame. Ultimately this affects P.J., and his eligibility to play Division 1 collegiate basketball for the remainder of this season, as well as next season.
Despite our disappointment, we wish the team continued success.”
Hairston got himself into hot water with the NCAA after driving rental cars that were connected to Haydn Thomas, who is a club owner and convicted felon in Chapel Hill, N.C., according to Nicole Auerbach of USA Today. Those were considered to be impermissible benefits, so Hairston has been in limbo all season long.
Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams expressed a great deal of disappointment in Hairston's decision making back in October, according to ESPN's Andy Katz.
Roy Williams talked during our interview quite a bit about P.J. Hairston: Running punishment, poor leadership this summer, play since.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) October 16, 2013
Despite that, Williams is clearly upset about the fact that Hairston is no long a Tar Heel as evidenced by his comments on GoHeels.com.
I am extremely disappointed for P.J., his family and our team as he will no longer be playing basketball at North Carolina. 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.
Williams also said that Hairston has taken steps to correct the mistakes that he made.
Since summer, P.J. has been outstanding with our basketball program and with his schoolwork. He went through an extremely intense conditioning program with flying colors. He has been called a "perfect teammate" by one of our other players. He has dominated our practices and at times has been as good as any perimeter player I have ever coached, giving great effort to help our team. He cares deeply about Carolina and the basketball program.
Per the official UNC basketball Twitter account, the Hairston situation is the biggest disappointment of Williams' coaching career, which certainly says a lot.
RW: From a personal standpoint this is the lowest I've come from in 26 years of coaching.— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) December 20, 2013
Even though Hairston is no longer with the team, Williams still intends to help Hairston move forward.
RW: PJ and I are going to have some close, personal conversations [on what he will do next as an individual].— Carolina Basketball (@UNC_Basketball) December 20, 2013
How will North Carolina fare without P.J. Hairston this season?
Those conversations will almost certainly involve mentions of the NBA, as Hairston is clearly a coveted prospect at the next level. His collegiate career didn't end ideally by any means, but he can still do great things in basketball.
As for North Carolina, Hairston's return would have been a welcome sight for fans, but the team has been good regardless. The Tar Heels are ranked No. 14 in the nation with a record of 7-3. They have beaten elite teams like Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, but there is an element of inconsistency.
Hairston may very well have helped in that regard, but Williams and Co. must now move forward without him.
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