Hairston at NBA workout: ‘I’m a better person’

Jun. 04, 2014 @ 06:06 PM

P.J. Hairston’s basketball odyssey returned him to his home state on Wednesday as the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets put him through a pre-draft workout.

It’s the fifth stop on his tour around the league as teams evaluate the talent that made him one of the ACC’s top players two seasons ago.

Hairston drilled jump shots with regularity, often barely rippling the net as he sank one 3-pointer after another.

That has not changed since his days with North Carolina. Here’s something else that has yet to change: Questions about his maturity and the poor decisions that led UNC to kick him off the team last December.

Hairston was eager to talk about both subjects in an interview on Wednesday on the Hornets’ practice court at Time Warner Cable Arena Yes, he still loves to shoot. Yes, he needed to mature. He never forgot how to do one and he’s taken steps to do the other.

Charlotte has two first-round picks -- No. 9 and No. 24. They’ll certainly have a chance to select Hairston.

Sure he’d like to play in his home state. But he’s now mature enough to admit he’d have to think twice about how he lives his life.

“I would love to play at home, an hour, an hour and a half from Greensboro,” Hairston said. “At the same time it would be a focusing process. I would have to be able to focus. That wouldn’t be a hard thing for me because I feel like if I got the opportunity to play here I would take full advantage of it by coming here every day and worrying about being a player and not worrying about home.”

Hairston’s well-documented transgressions at UNC included numerous speeding and parking tickets. Those aren’t the acts of a hardened criminal. But his involvement with convicted felon Haydn “Fats” Thomas of Durham, the use of rental cars rented by Thomas, spelled NCAA trouble that he couldn’t escape.

On the court, the Greensboro native led the Tar Heels in scoring with a 14.6 scoring average in 2012-13. After his college career ended, he joined the Texas Legends of the NBA Developmental League last January and averaged 21.8 points a game.

That scoring touch has the attention of NBA scouts. But Hairston said he learned far more in the D-League.

“I also feel like I’m a better person,” Hairston said. “I have matured more. In the D-league I was living on my own, by myself and making my own decisions. It really showed how much I’ve matured over the last three or four months. It helped me become a better person and also a better basketball player.”

He’s sought to show his scoring ability and more while working out for Chicago, Miami, Boston and Phoenix prior to Wednesday’s visit to Charlotte.

Today he’ll be in New York working out for the Knicks, a team that doesn’t own a first-round pick but may be considering a trade to get one and select Hairston.

For Hairston, this month of hardcore travel and basketball practices is a blessing considering he cost himself his final season at UNC. Instead, he played before tiny crowds far away from the limelight in the D-League.

Yet that experience renewed his love for the game.

“I was ready to touch the court,” Hairston said. “I didn’t care where I played. I could have been playing in the heart of Alaska. I was ready to play. Just my passion and my love for the game. When I’m on the floor, I’m a different person.”

Duke’s Andre Dawkins joined Hairston and four other draft-eligible players for Wednesday’s workout. Rivalry aside, Dawkins doesn’t have a problem talking about what kind of talent Hairston possesses.

“It’s lucky that he wasn’t in the Carolina-Duke games last year,” Dawkins said. “It could have made the games a little different. He’ll make some team really happy.”

Whether that team is in North Carolina or 3,000 miles away, Hairston said he’s prepared to put his youthful mistakes behind him and play the game he loves “It’s the past,” Hairston said. “I’m just thankful for this opportunity, for these teams to let me come and work out. Just being able to be here is one of the biggest things for me. Just going through the D-League it was more of a learning process more than just being a basketball player.”