UNC guard P.J. Hairston to return to school

acarter@newsobserver.comApril 12, 2013 

— At least one of North Carolina’s three best players from last season will be back for another year. P.J. Hairston, the sophomore guard, announced on Twitter and in a statement released by UNC that he would return next season for his junior season.

Hairston made the decision after consulting with his family and UNC coach Roy Williams.

“I value the experiences I have had over the past two years in Chapel Hill, and hope to continue to grow under Coach Roy's guidance,” Hairston said in a statement released by UNC. “Coach always says, ‘When you focus on the team during the season, I will support you in the off-season.’

“This is my way of supporting coach, my teammates and the Tar Heel community.”

Hairston led UNC with an average of 14.6 points per game, but he excelled after entering the starting lineup in mid-February. During the Tar Heels’ final 13 games, he averaged 18.2 points per game.

During that stretch, he helped UNC rebound from its shaky play in the early part of the season. With Hairston playing a key role in a four-guard starting lineup, the Tar Heels were at their best toward the end of the season. They ended the regular season in third place in the ACC, before losing against Kansas in the in the round of the 32 in the NCAA tournament.

Now UNC will wait to learn if two of its other most productive players – Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo – will return. Bullock, Hairston and McAdoo all averaged around 14 points per game, and all took turns as UNC’s most reliable player during the 2012-13 season.

Of those three, though, only McAdoo has been consistently projected as a sure first-round pick in the NBA draft. That’s a contrast from a season ago, when Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall were all projected as possible lottery picks before all three departed early from UNC.

A UNC basketball team spokesman said on Friday that it was unclear when Bullock and McAdoo would finalize their decisions. According to the NBA, college underclassmen have until April 28 to decide to enter the draft, which is June 27.

Wendy Mailey, Hairston’s mom, praised her son’s decision to remain in school.

“I am proud that he took the initiative to weigh the impact of short-term gratification versus long-term success to come to his decision to stay in school,” she said in a statement released by UNC. “I've watched him continually mature and learn from each lesson he has been faced with over the past two years.”

Carter: 919-829-8944 Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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