What kind of punishment PJ Hairston receives for an offseason’s worth of troubling headlines, run-ins with the law and one reported association with a convicted felon with a penchant for renting nice cars, but what’s clear at this point is that North Carolina will have their leading returning scorer back on the team in 2013-2014.
That became all the more obvious on Monday evening, when ESPN.com reported that Hairston has been practicing with his Tar Heel teammates despite being indefinitely suspended from the program.
“[The distraction] was more of an issue in the summer than it will be going into the season,” sophomore point guard Marcus Paige told ESPN.com. “He’s in good shape right now, and I think he’s in a good place and is ready to move on. … We’ve moved on. He’s working out with us, and we still accept him. It was a big deal in the media, but we’re pretty confident everyone has moved past it. We can’t wait to get him back — whenever it is.”
With football season starting and Hairston keeping his nose clean the last two months, Paige is right, he’s become much less of a story than he was over the summer.
But during the summer, Hairston couldn’t have been a bigger thorn in Roy Williams’ side.
Hairston was arrested for driving without a license and possession of marijuana, and while both of those charges were dropped, the NCAA began poking around because he was driving a car that was rented by a convicted felon named Fats Thomas at the time. Hairston had also been pulled over for driving a car rented by a woman that lived with Thomas earlier in the year. He was suspended from the team in July when he was pulled over and cited for reckless driving.
Last month, North Carolina AD Bubba Cunningham told a group of professors that Hairston would play this season but “not all the games“.
Rutgers has struggled to achieve success on the floor the last few years and head coach Eddie Jordan is hoping that some talented newcomers can help start a turnaround. With the start of practice, local media saw some of the Scarlet Knights’ early practice and Jerry Carino of the Asbury Park Press noted that the duo of freshman point guard Corey Sanders and junior college forward Deshawn Freeman were getting a lot of burn together.
With both incoming players being four-star prospects, it’s hardly a surprise that Jordan would see what the two were capable of. According to Carino, it meant a lot of Sanders driving and forcing the defense to collapse before finding Freeman.
“It seems like coach always has us on the same team,” Freeman said to Carino. “Ever since we’ve gotten here, he’s trying to get us to play together.”
Carino also notes that since Rutgers is deeper, longer and more athletic in general this season, the team could do more with a pressing defense to help create turnovers.
While Rutgers still faces an uphill climb in the Big Ten, they at least have some exciting pieces that will be in place for a few seasons.
LSU football and Leonard Fournette are off to a strong start this fall, but the beginning of October also means that college hoops is right around the corner. If you’re a Tigers basketball fan, you also have plenty to be excited about on the hardwood this season with the arrival of a loaded freshman class headlined by forward Ben Simmons.
While the versatile Simmons has solidified a spot in the starting lineup for next season, it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Johnny Jones uses the rest of his talented freshmen. In a story from Sheldon Mickles of the New Orleans Advocate, he looks into some potential LSU starting lineups.
Freshman guard Antonio Blakeney, a McDonald’s All-American with Simmons, is also expected to start, but does another talented freshman guard, Brandon Sampson get a shot to start? And what of Arizona transfer Craig Victor when he’s eligible to play in December?
Mickles believes the early favorite for starting lineup is guards Tim Quarterman, Keith Hornsby, Blakeney, Simmons and center Darcy Malone. When Victor returns, Mickles said Victor could push Simmons into the “center” position, which would be a matchup nightmare on the opposition because Simmons would be very tough for many college centers to defend.
Sampson also gets a mention from Mickles of having the potential to start down the line. Overall, a good problem to have for Jones and he’ll have to experiment to see which lineups are giving him the most. Having a productive starting five is nice, but I’m sure Jones would love to find the five players he wants to close with.