Hairston torching D-League but didn't dominate Duke
Posted February 10
Chapel Hill, N.C. — With Duke on the doorstep, it’s only natural that some North Carolina coaches, players and fans will have a few “what if” moments regarding P.J. Hairston this week.
There’s no question Hairston’s absence has severely weakened the team and perhaps will wind up bushwhacking the entire season. Had he played the entire season, UNC probably would be in the top 10 at this historically significant stage of the season.
At 6-4 in the ACC and 16-7 overall, the Heels probably won’t get back in the national top 20 - even if they beat the Blue Devils (8-3, 19-5) Wednesday in Chapel Hill (9 p.m., WRAL-TV/620 The Buzz).
But over four career games against Duke, Hairston had only one big night and that came in UNC’s 73-68 loss last year on Feb. 13 (Mike Krzyzewski’s birthday) in Durham.
Hairston had 23 points and eight rebounds to lead the Heels, but he still missed six of seven 3-points attempts.
In the March 9 game at Carolina, Hairston had 14 points but missed five of six three's as Duke won easily, 69-53.
Then as a freshman in the 2011-12 season, Hairston played 15 minutes off the bench and scored only two points in Carolina’s 88-70 win at Durham (March 3, 2012) and got in for 10 minutes without scoring in Duke’s 85-84 win (Austin Rivers) at Chapel Hill on Feb. 8.
• • •
Hairston’s impact in the NBA Developmental League obviously underscores what he might have meant to the Tar Heels.
Through 10 games with the Texas Legends, he’s averaging 26.3 points and converting almost 40 percent of 3-points attempts behind the NBA’s arc (23 feet, nine inches compared to 20-9 in the NCAA).
Had Hairston played the entire season in the D-League, he would probably be the leading MVP candidate. At the moment, he’s the only D-League player projected to go in the first round of the NBA Draft (June 26) in New York. Most of the draft analysts rate him as a mid first-rounder.
Former Duke guard Seth Curry, who scored 31 points in the two wins over Carolina last season, is also doing well in the D-League, averaging 19.4 points through 21 games for the Santa Cruz Warriors.
Three former N.C. State players - forwards Rich Howell and C.J. Leslie and guard C.J. Williams - are also having impressive seasons in the D-League.
Howell is averaging 18.5 points and 10 rebounds through 20 games with the Idaho Stampede. Howell’s teammate, former UNC guard Dexter Strickland, has had some injury problems and is averaging less than three points in nine games.
With the Erie Bay Bayhawks, Leslie is averaging 13.6 and 5.8 rebounds over 30 games.
Williams, in his second D-League season, is averaging 14.3 points and 4.1 rebounds for the Los Angeles D-Fenders.
• • •
Another familiar figure in the Carolina-Duke series who will not be in the Dean Dome on Wednesday is Chris Collins.
After 13 seasons on Krzyzewski’s staff, the 39-year-old Collins took the Northwestern job at the end of 2012-13 and is doing better than anyone expected in his first season.
Collins’ team is 12-12 overall and 5-6 in the Big Ten after being picked for last place in many of the preseason polls.
The Wildcats, 13-19 (4-14 Big Ten) last season under Bill Carmody, have won four of their last six, including a 65-56 win at 14th-ranked Wisconsin on Jan. 29.