It is Hairston’s first known offense. UNC senior associate athletic director for communications Steve Kirschner released a statement that the University is aware of the situation and is “still gathering information and may comment further later”.
Inside Carolina’s Greg Barnes reported Thursday afternoon that
sources close to the program say Hairston will be disciplined internally. (In other words, Hairston will likely not be suspended for any games or any practices next season.) Barnes also reported that Hairston met with his head coach Roy Williams on Thursday morning to discuss his arrest.
It was thought that Hairston might go pro this year after a solid sophomore campaign, but Hairston decided to return for his junior year at UNC. The 6-foot-5 wing averaged 14.6 points and 4.3 rebounds last year, and those numbers jumped to 18.2 points and 5.5 rebounds when he entered the starting lineup on Feb. 13.
Hairston becoming a starter led to the Tar Heels going with a smaller lineup. UNC had a number of wings/two-guards a year ago, and no one the Heels tried at center worked. Now that Reggie Bullock decided to go pro and incoming freshman Andrew Wiggins chose Kansas, the Heels’ options on the wing are more limited.
Fans and analysts alike were puzzled early in the season as to why Hairston wasn’t starting before he did, and Williams repeatedly said that he had his reasons. Those reasons weren’t really anything he ever shared with the fan base.
One play he cited in particular was after a loss at N.C. State in late January. Hairston bent over at the waist to go for a loose ball, while N.C. State’s T.J. Warren dove on the floor for it. Who got the ball in the scenario was immaterial (Warren got it, for the record) but Hairston sat for a significant portion of the rest of the game, during which North Carolina got behind by 20 points.
But Hairston found his way back into Williams’ good graces and was a key cog in UNC’s resurgence down the stretch. UNC started 17-8 but bounced back to win eight of its final 11 games, with two of three losses coming to Duke (and one to No. 1 seed Kansas in the Round of 32).
Even though Hairston’s discipline will supposedly be handled internally, it’s not necessarily good news for Hairston if he’s back on Williams’ bad side. And the Tar Heels need him.
North Carolina’s five wings and two-guards accounted for 57 percent of all points scored last year. Hairston and Bullock alone accounted for 35.5 percent of UNC’s scoring. Without Bullock and Dexter Strickland, UNC’s starting two-guard a year ago, the Tar Heels are going to have to rely on unproven players that have had their own issues like Leslie McDonald (who was suspended a year ago for academic issues) and Hairston, who now has this.
Those two are more than capable of providing a good one-two punch from the perimeter for UNC that could perhaps be even better than what the Tar Heels had last year. But other than those two, the Tar Heels really only have one other wing/two-guard with experience and that’s the still-raw J.P Tokoto, who averaged 8.6 minutes.
Hairston seemed poised for a breakout season as recently as a few days ago. Then on Monday, he received an invitation to try out for the USA Basketball World University Games team. This recent incident doesn’t necessarily change any of that, but Hairston likely be on thin ice in the eyes of his head coach, not to mention the watchful gaze of NBA teams eying him for 2014.