Ex-UNC star Hairston picked in 1st round, traded to Hornets

Jun. 26, 2014 @ 10:50 PM

P.J. Hairston’s off-court mistakes may have cost him his junior season at North Carolina, but it didn’t prevent him from being a first-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Hairston was selected with the 26th pick by the Miami Heat, who then sent him to the Charlotte Hornets as part of an earlier trade. The Greensboro native worked out twice with the Hornets, who are owned by Michael Jordan and were desperate for a shooter.

Hairston became the Tar Heels’ 35th first-round pick since 1980 despite losing his eligibility by accepting impermissible benefits.

As a result, the 6-foot-5 shooting guard went to the NBA D-League. Hairston scored 21.8 points on 45.3 percent shooting (35.8 percent from behind the arc) in 26 games with the Texas Legends and became the first D-League player to be drafted in the first round.

“He shoots it from really deep range with ease,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said. “He still needs to maintain his conditioning. He’s a really, really good shooter and I think he’s got a level of toughness about him, and I like the pick.”

Hairston was the 18th draft pick from UNC in the last 10 seasons.

Hairston led the Tar Heels in scoring in the 2012-13 season as a sophomore and decided to return to school for his junior year. But he was pulled over by police twice in a month while driving luxury cars rented by Haydn “Fats” Thomas, which prompted a closer look at his connections to the Durham felon and party promoter.

Hairston sat out the first 10 games of the 2013-14 season before UNC announced in December that there was no chance he would be reinstated by the NCAA.

UNC power forward James Michael McAdoo, who turned pro after his junior season, was not among the first 26 picks. He averaged 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds as a starter, earning second-team all-ACC honors in both seasons.

But while his production was steady, his draft stock slipped considerably. A potential lottery pick when he came to UNC after winning the 2009 USA Basketball Male Athlete of the Year, McAdoo slid in draft projections each season he came back.

Jeff McInnis in 1996 was the last underclassman to leave UNC early and not be a first-round pick.