Hairston hits the court with Tar Heels
Junior P.J. Hairston may not be the only North Carolina starter who is unavailable to start the season.
UNC coach Roy Williams said Friday that senior Leslie McDonald’s status is still being reviewed by the NCAA because of an undisclosed violation.
Sophomore J.P. Tokoto will also be suspended for the team’s exhibition game Friday after committing a minor violation, but he will be back in time for the opener on Nov. 8 against Oakland.
McDonald’s image had been used by Iceberg Guards, causing UNC to issue a cease-and-desist letter to the company over the summer. McDonald was pictured wearing a custom-made mouthguard on Iceberg’s website and had mentioned the company on Twitter. It’s usually against NCAA rules for college athletes to promote products.
When asked if McDonald would miss any games, Williams said he had no idea.
“The NCAA didn’t call me and ask what I think,” Williams said.
Williams also didn’t have an update on Hairston, who was suspended indefinitely after being stopped by police three times during the offseason – twice in cars connected to Durham felon Haydn “Fats” Thomas, which raised the issue of whether Hairston received an improper benefit. Thomas also told WTVD that he sold a used iPhone to McDonald for $100.
Williams has said that his leading scorer from last season would miss multiple games, but the team and the NCAA were both still reviewing the case. Hairston has been allowed to practice with the team.
The offseason turmoil didn’t seem to affect the junior guard at Friday’s Late Night with Roy event. After receiving the biggest cheers during player introductions, Hairston poured in a game-high 20 points in a 20-minute intrasquad scrimmage, which ended in a 50-50 tie.
Hairston made a 3-pointer on the game’s first shot and finished 8-of-16 from the field and 4-of-8 from long range.
“It’s great for him,” point guard Marcus Paige said. “This is a release for him, to put everything past him from the summer. When he’s on the court, he’s doing what he loves to do, and he gets to not think about all that stuff and just play basketball for awhile.”
But Hairston’s Blue team wouldn’t come out the winner. Paige came around a high ball screen and hit a floater with under a second to play to tie the game for the White team, which was led by a double-double from freshman center Kennedy Meeks.
Williams praised the work of Meeks, who scored 16 points and has dropped from 317 to 284 pounds since arriving on campus, but said the center spot is still an open competition.
In fact, Williams said that Paige and junior forward James Michael McAdoo are the only players who have solidified their starting spots.
Tokoto may be in line for more playing time because of the uncertainty surrounding wing players Hairston and McDonald. At least he’ll definitely be on the opening-night roster.
The sophomore forward was in trouble after playing in two games in a sanctioned summer league in Milwaukee, near Tokoto’s hometown of Menomonee Falls, Wis., before having his paperwork approved.
Williams said that Tokoto was held out of the league for the rest of the summer as a good-faith gesture, and when the school suggested that Tokoto miss the exhibition game and a closed scrimmage, the NCAA agreed with the punishment.
Before Williams showed off a few dance moves as part of last night’s pre-game festivities, he turned serious as the host of the ninth annual Roy Williams Fast Break Against Cancer breakfast. The event has raised $1.4 million dollars toward cancer research, prevention and treatment and is sponsored by UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer.
The featured speaker at Friday morning’s event at the Smith Center was former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher, whose wife Kaye died in 2010 of melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Cowher said that melanoma is preventable if people are proactive about finding it.
“When it’s detected, it’s almost 100 percent curable,” Cowher said. “But once it gets inside you, it’s almost 100 percent deadly.
“I ask everybody to get screened. You’re down in North Carolina; you’re out in the sun. If you get screened every year, it takes 10-15 minutes out of your day, once a year, (and) it can save your life.”