Stay or Go Pro? The Case for P.J. Hairston to Stay Put at UNC


The NBA Draft takes place on Thursday June 27th at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York.  As is the question almost annually when the North Carolina Tar Heels season ends is who will stay in school and continue to hone their skills at the collegiate level and who will take the plunge and head to the NBA.  While we all wish for everyone to follow the lead of Tyler Hansbrough whom despite being one of the best players in college basketball for the majority of his career, still opted to stay in school all four years chasing a national title, that’s just not realistic.  This off season three UNC players could all make the jump with P.J. Hairston, James Michael McAdoo and Reggie Bullock all considering the move.

Mar 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard P.J. Hairston (15) puts up a shot against the Villanova Wildcats in the first half during the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina head coach Roy Williams recently had this to say about this year’s group.

"“We’ll look into it and see,’’ he said. “I don’t feel the sense of urgency right now with it that as I have in years’ past. We were an 8-seed [in the NCAA tournament]. We finished third in the league. We had 11 losses. The NBA usually likes to find those guys that come off teams that won 30 games and go to the Final Four. And our guys understand that. That’s not saying anything negative.”"

Roy’s argument is supported by the fact that no matter what NBA Mock Draft resource you look at, you won’t see a Tar Heel in the top 20. McAdoo is the only one that seems like a first round lock. Perhaps the most interesting candidate is P.J. Hairston who has been a fan favorite all season and ended the year as the teams leading scorer after being inserted into the starting lineup.

Hairston proved to be the teams most dangerous and explosive player after Roy finally made the move of inserting him into the lineup.  He’s the one player on the roster who can do it all, the one guy I can picture going to the league and becoming a star without any drastic changes to his game.

Despite that Hairston has a ton to gain from coming back to school, at the top of the list is draft position which equals money.  NBA executives simply haven’t seen enough from Hairston to draft him high in the first round.  Another season as a starter with Hairston as one of the focal points of the offense should do wonders for his stock.

Hairston was good, sometimes great for the Heels this season, he still wasn’t anywhere near where he could be.  Nobody doubts Hairston’s range and shooters stroke and he’s proven that he’s a terrific rebounder who most of the time plays with the type of energy that’s infectious to his team.  What he has yet to do is show NBA teams that he has more than a jump shot, a trait that will determine if he is a role player or a potential star at the next level.

Hairston is a great athlete with great bounce and finishing ability around the rim, the problem is he rarely penetrates to the basket and relies heavily on his outside shot.  Considering the makeup of the 2012-13 Tar Heels that made sense most of the time, without a true inside threat the half court offense was pretty much centered around the outside shooting of Hairston, Reggie Bullock and Leslie McDonald.   Next season the challenge for P.J. especially if McAdoo departs will be adjusting back to the traditional North Carolina style of play, which means doing more than hoisting up three point shots.

Could P.J. Hairston be an NBA player next season?  Absolutely, should he?  No, plain and simple a move to the NBA would cost him millions of dollars and take away from the development of his skills.  Come on back to Chapel Hill P.J. Hairston!