UNC Basketball: What's the Next Step for PJ Hairston After Losing Eligibility?

Rollin Yeatts@@TSBRollinFeatured ColumnistDecember 25, 2013

Mar 3, 2013; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard P.J. Hairston (15) reacts after hitting a three point shot in the first half at the Dean E. Smith Center. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Last Friday, the University of North Carolina made the decision not to apply for junior guard P.J. Hairston's reinstatement after close to six months of informal investigations by the university and the NCAA that revealed alleged inconsistencies in the Tar Heels' statements.

Kudos to Inside Carolina and Greg Barnes for the careful wording here—something others failed to do in their reporting.

After his third run-in with police over the summer, which included two speeding tickets and a dismissed drug charge, the Greensboro native was being investigated for potential impermissible benefits. Hairston had been driving a rental car that wasn't under his name during two of the three citations.

In the meantime, Roy Williams put his star guard in an intense 18-day conditioning program, stripped him of his leadership role and suspended him indefinitely to allow time for the wrinkles to be ironed out with the NCAA. That suspension spanned 10 games until the final decision was made on his eligibility.

Coach Williams' support never waned, as he had nothing to do with the ruling. That was clear in his statement released by GoHeels.com:

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 25:  Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels shakes hands with P.J. Hairston #15 as he comes out of the game against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the third round of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitationa
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

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.

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.

P.J. has learned from this experience and will continue to grow as a player and adult. I will support him and help him as much as I possibly can as he enters this next phase of his life and basketball career.

Now the question is: Where does P.J. Hairston go from here?

Mar 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard P.J. Hairston (15) drives to the basket against Villanova Wildcats forward Mouphtaou Yarou (13) in the first half during the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at the Sprint Center.
Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

If Williams' praises prove to be accurate in the eyes of NBA scouts and executives, his basketball career is certainly not over.

Because he never set foot on the hardwood this season, he'll have to find a way to get in front of the people who could take a chance on him this summer. Private workouts could suffice, but playing overseas or getting picked up by a team in the NBA's D-League would be the best options.

The D-League allows players to sign contracts during the season, which would work out quite well for Hairston. That would also make him immediately eligible for the upcoming draft.

Former Georgia Tech star Glen Rice Jr. was able to take advantage of the D-League after being dismissed from the program. After a season in the NBA's minor league, he was drafted 35th overall in the 2013 NBA draft.

Hairston could still land in the first round, as he was expected to before his eventful summer. As long as he shows the work ethic and skill worthy of a high pick, his past indiscretions likely won't be held against him.

Landing in the lottery could be a stretch, but I wouldn't be surprised, either. He's an extremely gifted, strong-bodied wing with ridiculous range.

As a sophomore, Hairston averaged 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.3 steals and 0.4 blocks per game over just 23.6 minutes. He averaged 18 points in 14 games as a starter and buried 89 treys on 39.6 percent shooting behind the arc.

This was all before adding a mid-range game over the summer and having to play the 4 as a starter in his last 13 games with Carolina.

I'm willing to bet it won't take long for this budding star to grab the attention of NBA scouts preparing for the upcoming draft. Hairston will be a man on a mission, and I'll feel sorry for any defender who stands in the way of the 6'6", 220-pounder.

This young man's career is far from over. Stay tuned, Tar Heel Nation.


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