PJ Hairston is the third leading scorer for North Carolina at 12.2 points per game yet he is playing just 17.6 minutes per game. Many reasons for this exist, for one the Tar Heels are stacked on the perimeter, Roy Williams has several talented wings on the roster with Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock, Leslie McDonald and freshman JP Tokoto all deserving playing time.
But that’s not the real reason or even a viable excuse for why Hairston is sitting on the bench for 57% of the game. After all, who else on the Tar Heels roster is capable of all of the following: outside shooting, creating their own offense, playing multiple positions and most importantly putting a team on his back offensively when he gets in a rhythm? If you answered nobody except PJ Hairston well pat yourself on the back because you are correct.
So again I’ll ask the question, why is PJ Hairston playing just 17.6 minutes per game? You can answer that question by simply stating shot selection, after all of Hairstons 110 field goal attempts, 66 have come from beyond the arc. I don’t care how good of a shooter you are, if 60% of your FG attempts are from deep then you do not have good shot selection. It’s not like Hairston is Steve Kerr or some non-athletic shooting specialist simply on the roster to come in, play a few minutes and knock down a few shots, this kid has tons of talent. So the answer to the question in my mind is confidence. PJ Hairston will earn more minutes in the rotation when he shows enough confidence in his all around game to demand more minutes out of Roy Williams.
At 6-6 220 pounds, Hairston is big enough to play the power forward position when Roy decides to go small, he has the power to take on contact and get to the basket and the size to back down smaller wings. With all the talent the Tar Heels have on the wings, no player besides for Hairston has all the tools to create their own shot in the half court besides Hairston, yet far too often he lives beyond the three point arc.
Jay Williams made a great point in UNCs last contest in which PJ set a career high with 20 points. Shooters need to start inside, get something easy with a mid range shot or slashing to the basket, seeing the ball drop in through the hoop can do wonders for shooters. When your whole game relies upon whether or not your three point shot is going in, it will be your downfall more often than not.
If PJ Hairston can instill some discipline in his game and force himself to take better shots and play within the system and stop forcing things from down town, then and only then will he start to fulfill his potential which I still believe is great. I also believe that Roy Williams needs to put a little more faith in PJ and put him on the floor and demand better of him more often. It’s very hard for young players to hold themselves back from trying to do too much on the court when their minutes are limited. PJ just needs to realize that sometimes less, really is more.