Could P.J. Hairston opt for the D-League this season?

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Although former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston will no longer play for the Tar Heels after last week’s announcement from the University that they wouldn’t seek his re-instatement from the NCAA, the 6-foot-5 junior guard still has options to play basketball this season, including playing in the NBA’s Developmental League.

According to a story from Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer, Hairston would be eligible to immediately play in the D-League if a team were interested in signing him. Bonnell spoke with a D-League spokesperson to clarify the rules as they pertain to Hairston:

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.

While it is likely that Hairston will enter next June’s NBA Draft, the guard can now weigh the option to become a professional basketball player immediately in the D-League to prepare for the draft, if he so chooses.

If Hairston were to pursue a stint in the D-League, he wouldn’t be the first dismissed college player to make the jump to the D-League before entering the NBA Draft. Former Georgia Tech forward Glen Rice Jr. entered the 2012 D-League draft in November of that year following his dismissal from Georgia Tech in March of 2012 and went on to become a second-round pick — 35th overall — in the 2013 NBA Draft.

Rice Jr. helped lead the Rio Grande Valley Vipers to the D-League title in his one season in the league while averaging 29 points, 11.5 rebounds, four assists, three steals and 3.5 blocks in the D-League Finals and also significantly boosting his NBA Draft stock in the process.

Hairston wouldn’t play a full season in the D-League like Rice Jr. — since it is already in the middle of the season — but P.J. could get back in game shape and show NBA scouts that he is talented enough — and mature enough — to warrant a selection in next June’s draft.

No decision has been made on Hairston’s future since the family released a statement last Friday.