UNC Basketball Player Profiles: PJ Hairston


Keeping It Heel is profiling every player on the 2012-13 roster as part of our season preview series.  Today I’ll take a look at North Carolinas sophomore guard/forward PJ Hairston.  Hairston came to Chapel Hill as a highly touted, five star prospect known for his sharp shooting and athleticism.  In the beginning of his freshman season, Hairston looked good.  Then he hit a slump, and that slump lasted the rest of the season.  PJ ended the season shooting just 30% from the field and 27% from beyond the three point line.

Photo Credit: US Presswire

Hairston struggled in all facets of his game, as his jump shot went, so went PJ.  The freshman’s confidence was shredded, he stood around on offense, doing nothing but launching bad shots when he had the room to launch one.  He seemed to go into a shell, refusing to take the ball to the basket and utilize his athleticism.

Hairston didn’t really struggle to adapt to the college game.  I firmly believe his struggles were due to a lack of opportunity.  Always the star of his team growing up, Hairston suddenly found himself as a role player and didn’t know how to handle it.  Hairston will face steep competition for a starting position and playing time on a Tar Heel team stacked on the perimeter.  The team will have Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald back from injury, Reggie Bullock who played well in an expanded role last season when Strickland went down and the ultra athletic freshman JP Tokoto on the roster.

After watching Hairston struggle nearly his entire freshman season, some may forget that Hairston was a highly touted, consensus five star prospect out of high school.  You wouldn’t know it by watching his freshman game film but Hairston has a very well rounded game, he’s not just a jump shooter contrary to popular belief.

Hairston also has tons of athleticism he needs to start using out on the court.  He can handle the basketball, he has decent speed and springs that rise surprisingly fast at the rim when he’s attacking the basket.   He played very well in the NC Pro-Am this summer, he and Leslie McDonald provided a ton of highlight reel dunks and high scoring games.

Hairston wasn’t perfect, and at times, he fell back on old habits and relied on his jumper too often and faded unnecessarily, a very bad habit he seemed to fall in love with his freshman year.  But he was much more active, he attacked the rim a lot more, utilized his size against typically smaller defenders and was excellent in the open court.  That’s the PJ Hairston that Roy Williams needs to see this season.  UNC needs scorers for the first time in a long time, and Hairston is more than capable of filling up the stat sheet.

The challenge will be keeping his head in the game, not falling back on old habits and staying aggressive.  Aside from fellow sophomore James Michael McAdoo, nobody is a lock to start for the Tar Heels, especially perimeter players.  However I do expect Bullock to claim the starting small forward role meaning it’s Hairston vs McDonald vs Strickland for the starting shooting guard spot.  If Hairston can play up to his potential, he has a great chance of securing big time minutes in his sophomore season, especially given the fact that Strickland will be relied upon to provide minutes at the point.