Thanks in part to the entanglements of the NCAA’s amateurism rules, on Tuesday against North Carolina head coach Mark Turgeon and Maryland won’t have to worry about one Tar Heel who happens to be averaging 27.4 points per game.
Why? Because that Tar Heel, P.J. Hairston, is putting up those gaudy numbers far away from Chapel Hill--1,200 miles to the west in Frisco, Texas--with the NBA D-League’s Texas Legends.
Hairston was forced to sit out the early part of the season in Chapel Hill after being suspended and investigated by the NCAA for a possible violation of the organization’s amateurism rules. It was then revealed in late December that UNC was not, in fact, seeking reinstatement for Hairston.
That forced the junior to place his name in the D-League player pool, where the Legends selected him.
Since heading to Frisco, Hairston has shined. He has hit the 40-point mark twice, once scoring 40 in a win over the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, then scoring 45 in a loss to the Reno Bighorns.
Hairston’s path will most likely lead to the 2014 NBA Draft, though he wouldn’t be the first player selected from the D-League. Just this past year, the Washington Wizards acquired the rights to Glen Rice, Jr., who had a standout season in the D-League with Rio Grande Valley.
The difference for Hairston, though, is that there’s a strong possibility he could end up being taken in the first round. DraftExpress.com currently projects the 21-year-old to be selected No. 18 overall in what is unanimously considered the deepest draft class in a decade.
Without Hairston the Tar Heels have been a bit Jekyll and Hyde this season, beating teams like Michigan State and Louisville, but also losing to Belmont and UAB.
But that is all the better for Maryland, which will already have its hands full during its last regular-season game against North Carolina as a member of the ACC.