Ex-Tar Heel Hairston begins NBA D-League career with Texas Legends

acarter@newsobserver.comJanuary 14, 2014 

Former North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston will play with the Texas Legends in the NBA Developmental League.

ROBERT WILLETT - RWILLETT@NEWSOBSERVER.COM

P.J. Hairston, whose playing days ended at North Carolina amid suspicion that he received impermissible benefits, will begin his professional basketball career with the Texas Legends of the NBA Developmental League, the team announced Tuesday.

Hairston returned to UNC for his junior season in part to raise his stock for the NBA draft. Now he’ll attempt to do the same thing in the NBA’s minor league. Hairston isn’t eligible to be called up to the NBA this season, and his entry into the NBADL automatically makes him eligible for the NBA draft, which is in June.

“I’m extremely grateful that the Texas Legends organization believes in my abilities, and thank them for signing me to their team” Hairston said in a statement the Legends released. “I intend to take full advantage of this opportunity. This is another positive step towards accomplishing the goals I set out for myself. This is an exciting time.”

Hairston led the Tar Heels in scoring last year during his sophomore season. He would have been UNC’s go-to player this season. Yet a summer of trouble derailed Hairston, who was arrested once and caught twice driving rental cars tied to Haydn “Fats” Thomas, a Durham resident and felon.

Hairston sat out UNC’s first 10 games before the university announced that it would not seek his reinstatement from the NCAA. UNC has declined to release records related to its investigation into Hairston’s use of rental cars, but it likely was an impermissible benefit prohibited by the NCAA.

UNC’s announcement came days after the NCAA cleared Leslie McDonald, UNC’s senior guard, to return after he sat out nine games. Like Hairston, McDonald drove luxury rental cars tied to Thomas. UNC and the NCAA determined the value of McDonald’s use of the cars to be more than $1,500.

The value of Hairston’s use of cars is unclear. Given UNC’s decision not to seek his reinstatement, though, the value of Hairston’s impermissible benefits likely was far greater than $1,500. After UNC announced its decision not to seek Hairston’s reinstatement, his family released a statement in which it expressed its disappointment.

Hairston in recent weeks had been deciding his next step. He filed his paperwork to enter the NBADL late last week, and the Legends, who reportedly had the top waiver priority, claimed Hairston. He is expected to begin playing with the team later this week.

Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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