Hairston ‘unlikely’ to play vs. Hokies
North Carolina will have one guard back Saturday when it hosts Virginia Tech (noon, WRAL), but another guard likely will be sitting out.
Junior Leslie McDonald will play against the Hokies after a six-game absence — the first three games because of a sore knee, and the second three games because a suspension related to academics.
But sophomore P.J. Hairston is doubtful because of a concussion he suffered in Tuesday’s 82-70 win at Boston College.
“He’s probably not going to play on Saturday, but we’ll make that decision on Saturday,” UNC coach Roy Williams said on his weekly radio show Wednesday night.
Hairston was injured during a collision with teammate Dexter Strickland with 4:04 remaining in the first half. Williams said that Strickland’s elbow and forearm hit Hairston on the chin, and Hairston’s head whipped back when he hit the court.
“It was definitely painful for him, and it stunned him,” Williams said. “It was almost like he was in shock a little bit.”
After a few minutes, Hairston tried walking back to the bench with the help from teammates, but he almost collapsed and was eventually taken off on a stretcher.
“He was coherent — he could listen to you, he could understand — but it was a very slow response,” Williams said.
Hairston returned to the UNC bench for a short time in the second half and was able to fly back with the team. He was evaluated by UNC doctors on Wednesday afternoon and a statement released by the school said that the Greensboro native was improving.
“We’re certainly pleased that P.J. is feeling better, but it is unlikely that he will play on Saturday,” UNC athletics trainer Chris Hirth said in the statement.
Hairston’s concussion put an abrupt end to what was becoming a career night. He made all four of his 3-pointers for 12 points and added three assists, one steal and no turnovers in 12 minutes before the injury, which came with UNC leading 38-26.
“I was dumbfounded watching the tape how active he was in those 12 minutes he played,” Williams said. “He was really doing a great job defensively much less hitting four 3s.”
Hairston had scored 46 points in 46 minutes and was 12-of-18 from behind the arc during the past three games. He is the team’s third-leading scorer, averaging 12.4 points.
His absence could mean a bigger role right away for McDonald, who is fourth on the team at 8.4 points a game and is hitting 43.1 percent of his 3-point shots. It could also mean more playing time for freshman J.P. Tokoto, who was challenged at halftime of the Boston College game after Hairston’s injury.
“Last night, we put a lot of pressure on him,” Williams said. “And I even told him, ‘Son, your play in the first half was not good. I need you to be a player in the second half.’ And I think he gave us seven to nine bigtime minutes in the second half and did some good things for us.”
Tokoto finished with three points, two assists and a rebound in 13 minutes.