When it was announced prior to North Carolina’s game against Texas on Wednesday night that senior guard Leslie McDonald was eligible to play, many wondered when there would be a decision regarding the status of junior guard P.J. Hairston. However unlike McDonald, North Carolina had yet to apply for reinstatement on Hairston’s behalf, instead continuing to evaluate his case.
On Friday the school announced that it has made the decision to not take that step, and as a result Hairston’s career at North Carolina has come to an end.
“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,” director of athletics Bubba Cunningham said in the release. “The University thanks him for his contributions to Carolina Basketball.
“We also want to thank Coach Williams for the way in which he has held the team together over the early stages of this season despite not having two veteran players and for the level of care and concern he has for the young men on his team,” continued Cunningham. “We are glad that Leslie McDonald was reinstated and look forward to watching his Tar Heel teammates and him compete the rest of this season.”
In two seasons at North Carolina Hairston averaged 10.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, scoring a team-high 14.6 points per game as a sophomore. With Reggie Bullock moving on to the professional ranks Hairston was expected to be a major piece for the Tar Heels thanks to his scoring ability. But thanks to a series of missteps off the court Hairston found himself suspended indefinitely.
Hairston did what head coach Roy Williams required of him punishment-wise and was able to regain his spot on the roster, but doing that and convincing the NCAA that he should be eligible to play are two entirely different things. North Carolina came to that conclusion, and on Friday they announced that they’ll be moving forward with the players they currently have.
“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,” Williams said of Hairston in the statement. “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.”
North Carolina hosts Davidson on Saturday afternoon. The Tar Heels have relied on sophomore Marcus Paige for much of their perimeter scoring through ten games, J.P. Tokoto has shown signs of improvement and the return of McDonald should give them another scorer as the season wears on. If anything, the fact that they’ve already played ten games without Hairston means that the Heels have already been getting used to not having him on the floor.