UNC Basketball: ACC Tournament Was the Perfect Opportunity For McAdoo-Hairston


The Tar Heel freshman James Michael McAdoo and PJ Hairston came into Chapel Hill on a very similar path.  Both five star, hot shot recruits that all the big boys recruited.  Both having to adjust to life as a role player off the bench, no longer the star on their team like they have been their whole lives.  That’s about where the similarities end for these two in terms of how their freshman seasons have gone.

Hairston started off hot, he shot the ball with confidence and was hitting a decent percentage early and put up a couple of 20+ point games early in the year.   PJ then struggled with his shot and though he continued to shoot as if he were confident, he sure didn’t play like a confident basketball player to me.  A big, strong, athletic, machine in high school who used his all around game to dominate.  That guy disappeared, throughout the regular season, Hairston stood around the three point line looking lost in the offense.

Hairston contributed to a stagnant half court offense and looked to just sink into a role of stand around guy who immediately guns it if he has an inch to get off a three or a long two point jumper.  Anything but create off the dribble, post up a smaller defender (long most shooting guards are), or create for a teammate.  Hairston had become addicted to the jump shot, and it wasn’t doing him or anybody any good.  He looked good against Maryland in the tourney.  He moved without the ball on offense, dribble penetrated at least once and actually made a three point shot.  This kid has all kinds of talent, he needs to figure out how to get it going and probably more importantly play his role on this team.

McAdoo has been the polar opposite of Hairston in his freshman campaign.  James struggled badly early on.  It was obvious he wasn’t picking up the college game.  Defensively, he didn’t know where to be, he looked wide eyed and jumpy 100% of the time.  He often committed bone headed, freshman fouls.  He needed minutes, but behind Tyler Zeller and John Henson, there simply weren’t many.  McAdoo had some moments of showing how game.  A big transition dunk here, a mid range jumper there.  In the regular season as a whole, he put together one solid game of note, early in the year.  He only broke double digit points twice.

But in the ACC Tournament, both of these players shined.  McAdoo had the opportunity early when Henson went down against Maryland.  McAdoo overall looked good and you have to give him high grades considering it was his first significant action of the season.  He played well, but he also mixed in enough freshman like mistakes and unnecessary fouls to make you know it was still him.  A 14 point eight rebound game had me convinced an explosion by McAdoo was going to occur and he would be one of the hero’s of UNCs ACC Tournament Championship.  While that hasn’t quite happened yet, McAdoo proved he can handle a big role and his future is indeed very bright in Chapel Hill.

PJ Hairston was almost a player I had given up on to be 100% honest with you.  His shot never went in it seemed like.  Coming in shooting 31% from the field and just 27% from the line that’s not much of an exaggeration.  Hairston started to show signs in the semi finals of the conference tourney.  He was moving better in the half court and actually dribbled the ball and played with some aggression on the offensive end.  He hit the boards and had a posturing dunk off a missed jump shot.  Then in the championship game against FSU, Hairston went off.  He knocked down three from beyond the three point line and took it to the rim on a few occasions.  He knocked down all his foul shots.  Hairston moved even more fluidly through the offense and gave us a glimpse of why he had all the hype he did coming into Carolina.

If these two can start playing like they players they were for Hairston in the finals and for McAdoo like he played against Maryland.  Roy Williams and Carolina will finally have some of that depth we all took for granted in the preseason when we were gawking at the roster.  As great as the starters are for UNC, and they are great.  UNC has two, five star, top of the line athletes and basketball players coming off their bench in PJ Hairston and James Michael McAdoo.  The Heels got by and earned a #1 seed without much contribution from these two, or anyone off their bench for that matter.  If that changes in the tournament like it started to do in the conference tourney, the Heels national championship hopes are twice as dangerous.

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