UNC Basketball: Players Who Must Step Up in P.J. Hairston's Permanent Absence

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UNC Basketball: Players Who Must Step Up in P.J. Hairston's Permanent Absence
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The North Carolina basketball program took a major hit when it was announced that P.J. Hairston would not be returning to the team. However, the rest of the squad has to make sure this does not affect the rest of the season.

GoHeels.com provided a press release detailing that the junior would not seek reinstatement after dealing with eligibility concerns all season. Head coach Roy Williams took the news especially hard:

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.

Gary Parrish of CBS Sports also adds that Hairston will not be able to join any team in the future:

Still, the Tar Heels have the bulk of the season remaining and will have to overcome this loss in order to make a run in the NCAA tournament. For this to happen, they will need big performances from these players from now on.

 

James Michael McAdoo

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Despite North Carolina's success this season, James Michael McAdoo has been mostly a disappointment.

The former highly touted recruit could have been a top draft pick after showcasing loads of potential in his freshman year. While he provided a lot more production in his sophomore season, he still displayed too many weaknesses to enter the draft.

This season, however, he appears to have regressed. After 10 games, his scoring and rebounds per game are down, and opposing teams are willing to send him to the foul line due to his poor free-throw shooting ability.

Coach Williams was angry at the lack of improvement in this aspect, according to Michael Lananna of the Daily Tar Heel:

Still, the talent is there for McAdoo to be a big-time player at this level. He proved as much with his 20-point effort against Julius Randle and Kentucky. As the most experienced player on the roster, he needs to be a leader on the team and prove that he can be consistent every time out.

After this squad suffered losses to Belmont and UAB this season, leadership and consistency are desperately needed.

 

Leslie McDonald

Cooper Neill/Getty Images

Although Leslie McDonald is not quite the player that Hairston is, the team will still be happy to see him come back. Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports provided the details of his return:

McDonald played his first game of the year against Texas, scoring 15 points in a losing effort. Most importantly, however, he went 4-of-9 from behind the arc. This is something UNC desperately needs going forward after the team had no outside threats besides Marcus Paige to start the year.

In fact, the guard now ranks second on the team in made three-point shots after just one game. 

Dick Vitale of ESPN also pointed to McDonald's perimeter play as a bonus:

Of course, he is not quite as prolific as Hairston, who made 39.6 percent of attempts from deep last year. Still, McDonald's 35.9 percent mark will be a nice boost to this offense.

 

J.P. Tokoto

If there is one player on the roster with similar attributes to Hairston, it is Tokoto. The athletic wing has the ability to drive to the basket and finish above the rim or hit an outside shot when left open.

The key for him is to be more aggressive going forward. He has the skills to put a lot of points on the board but to this point is only averaging 9.6 per game. With a major gap on offense, he needs to become more of a go-to player.

Additionally, he needs to continue using his athleticism and length on defense.

According to Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports, the Tar Heels will be without Joel James for the next two weeks. The 6'10" center was a bit of a safety net on the defensive end, which puts more pressure on everyone else on the team.

As one of the better on-ball defenders on the roster, Tokoto must continue being a leader in this role to help the team survive.

 

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