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Adam Gold

Waiting for the NCAA's green light

Posted November 8, 2013
Updated November 10, 2013

P.J. Hairston (15) takes a shot during the University of North Carolina Tar Heels Late Night With Roy on October 25, 2013 in Chapel Hill, NC.

He looked great in a grey suit with a maroon, paisley tie.

No, not Roy Williams, though I will admit to thinking that North Carolina's Hall of Fame coach does look like he's dropped a few pounds. Maybe it's due to worrying about the guy in the grey suit. P.J. Hairston is clearly in the best shape of his life, but when the NCAA allows him to display his new body-by-punishment remains to be seen. Until they determine the extent of the impermissible benefits Hairston received from area party promoter Haydn "Fats" Thomas, we can't determine the potential of this Tar Heels basketball team.

Oh, this team will be pretty good, maybe even very good. James Michael McAdoo will lead them in scoring and rebounding and looks to be a half step quicker than he was a year ago. He is clearly the high-performance sedan of the group, sort of like a 7-series BMW, with a top end speed few players his size ever possess. As long as he doesn't have to stray too far away from the basket, he'll take advantage of most defenders and utilize his quickness and mid-range jumper to challenge for all-conference honors.

In addition, Marcus Paige will be better than the 34% shooter from 3-point range that he was as a freshman and J.P. Tokoto is as good an athlete as we've seen in a Tar Heels uniform since Julius Peppers walked out of Kenan Stadium and into the Smith Center. Freshman guard Nate Britt looks like he can get into the lane and cause problems for a defense and his classmate Kennedy Meeks is a big (very big) body with soft hands and a nice touch.

North Carolina being good isn't going to be a great concern. But, they have very little chance of being great unless Hairston can take off that suit and slip into something a little more comfortable.

Things looked great against the Golden Grizzlies of Oakland Friday night. North Carolina led by 37 points at halftime in their easier-than-it-looked 84-61 season-opening win. Even though they bogged down in a 26-point second half, part of that was due to the fact that Williams was line up tinkering. Maybe because of the uncertainty of just when Hairston will be allowed to return. But, this isn't about beating up a team from the Horizon League, it's about this team reaching it's potential in, what will certainly be a very powerful Atlantic Coast Conference.

In order for North Carolina to achieve at a high level in a league that will feature a handful of teams with Final Four aspirations, they simply must have their most explosive perimeter player. Not to forget senior guard Leslie McDonald, as he too will be needed for Carolina to max out this season, but McDonald is probably better-suited as a valuable back court reserve. Hairston is an impact scorer, with a ton of horsepower,  and -- when he puts his mind to it -- a very capable defensive presence.

Again, I think the Tar Heels can be good, even without P.J.. But, beating the likes of Duke, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Virginia without a player of his caliber -- not to mention without another wing player like him -- is going to take a fair amount of good fortune. The truth is that even with Hairston, North Carolina looks to be guard-thin. Of the dozen players Williams has at his disposal, it really appears that only five of them would be accurately classified as guards or wings. And, that would be far more troublesome on the defensive end of the court.  Without, Hairston -- or McDonald -- that number shrivels.

On the bright side, McAdoo, Tokoto and Paige all played exceptionally well in the opener, scoring 50 of the Tar Heels' 84 points. Meeks still has a long way to go to be able to handle the pace of high level games and we'll have to see if the 5'11" Britt can hold up against the bigger, better competition he'll face in the very near future. This isn't doomsday for North Carolina. It's just the first step in trying to figure out a giant puzzle until the NCAA lets everyone know when Carolina can expect to have their Ferrari back on the road.

While the suit was sharp, Roy doesn't need any sartorial competition on the bench. He needs P.J. in shorts.

8 Comments

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  • GunnyGoesBaaaarf Nov 9, 6:51 a.m.

    Interesting metaphor, Adam, comparing Hairston to a car.

    Carolina did look good in their opener, and I liked seeing Paige hitting those treys. Tokoto and JMM looked sharper and faster than they did last year. Meeks looked Sean May-esque, but he'll need to trim down more and be faster on his feet; still, I see potential in him and the team.

  • CarolinaBlue Nov 9, 8:02 a.m.

    This team looked MUCH improved from last year and it was exciting to see them last night. Paige, McAdoo and Tokoto (this years most improved so far) were dominant last night. I'm interested to see how they respond to a better opponent but a great start nonetheless.

  • 903 Hook em banned Nov 9, 9:44 a.m.

    They only looked good because of who they were playing. The season will be a train wreck without PJ.

  • Objective Scientist Nov 9, 10:34 a.m.

    Had tickets, but missed the game due to a grandson playing in a high school football game... and he is a "starter", plays a lot, and almost always has some impact on the game. I can't miss that- even for the Tar Heels!

    Obviously, not having seen the game I am relying on reading and hearing about it - not first-hand observation. It appears the Heels had a good game and specific players had a good night on the hardwood. I can't get too excited considering the opponent. You can always be surprised in the world of sport, but generally when Carolina plays a "cupcake" game to begin the season (and all higher level teams do this!)) the outcome is predictable and players have "good numbers". That said... all in all the Heels look good for the coming season.

    Regarding Hairston... I find it interesting that the focus in this article and others seems to have shifted from his behavior related to extreme poor decision making - and the severity of his actions - to waiting for the "dysfunctional" NCAA to determine his fate. It almost seems that if the NCAA had "ruled" and invoked no penalty for Hairston the expectation was that he would have played last night. Really? I don't know and I would NEVER attempt to claim knowledge of what Roy would be thinking on this type of thing... but I am extremely curious what would have happened and what would be the future of Hairston at UNC - IF it were totally up to Roy. Hairston deserves to miss some games... no matter how much "running" Roy has made him do! Nevertheless... NCAA? We are waiting...waiting... ...waiting!

  • shagnski Nov 9, 10:46 a.m.

    PJ is not CAROLINA material. I would rather we dump this problem on the NBA and lose some games than win with him.

  • Objective Scientist Nov 9, 12:06 p.m.

    PJ is not CAROLINA material. I would rather we dump this problem on the NBA and lose some games... View More

    — Posted by shagnski

    shagnski -- agree 100%

  • YouGotThatRight Nov 11, 12:14 a.m.

    Remember the group of lawyers from Charlotte who demanded UNC cough up records in the Butch Davis case? They were ticked because UNC tricked them into buying season tickets with the idea that Butch Davis was going to be the head coach. If there is any knowledge of Hairston sitting out long term, UNC will not tell people because they want your money. UNC is the best at blaming outsiders. Roy Williams has never been known as an ethical man in his entire career. Good thing the NCAA is dragging this out or else Hairston's "serious" punishment would have been nothing but running to keep him from getting fat.

  • OurStateLOL Nov 11, 12:41 p.m.

    Remember the group of lawyers from Charlotte who demanded UNC cough up records in the Butch... View More

    — Posted by YouGotThatRight

    LOL..sure. You seem to be on to something.

    LOL

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