Season Analysis: P.J. Hairston
Season stats: 14.6 ppg, 4.3 rpg
Per-40 minute stats: 24.6 P, 7.3 R
Season in a sentence: P.J. Hairston was Carolina's best offensive player during his sophomore season in Chapel Hill.
Season highlights: With a late surge, Hairston overtook James Michael McAdoo for the team's overall scoring lead (14.6 for Hairston to 14.4 for his fellow sophomore). He started his sophomore campaign relatively slowly, but then poured in 18 points on 7-for-11 shooting against Mississippi State in Maui. In that game, he tossed in a 60-foot buzzer-beater, a shot that he actually practices quite a bit:
Hairston had a couple other strong games-18 points against East Carolina, 20 against McNeese State-but his most complete early-season performance probably came in a start against UNLV, when he scored 15 points, had four steals and drew a pair of charges. His two free throws with less than 30 seconds remaining were decisive. And oh, by the way, he also won the team's defensive player of the game award.
Hairston's next explosion came at Florida State, when he scored a then-career high 23 points. Most people remember his three-pointers, some from major distance, against the Seminoles, but he also had a pair of nasty dunks. There are Hairston highlights galore in this behind the scenes video from Tallahassee:
One of the dunks of the year came against Georgia Tech:
The Greensboro native was one of a handful of Tar Heels to play well at NC State (19 points) and was on track for a great night against Boston College, scoring 14 points in 12 minutes, before a concussion kept him out for the rest of the game and the next game against Virginia Tech.
In a little over a week, Hairston was in the starting lineup at Duke, where he scored 23 points, then fired in 29 the next time out against Virginia. His final 20-point performances of the regular season came at Maryland, when he contributed 22 points, eight rebounds and three steals.
Against the ACC: It wasn't just your imagination that Hairston was more consistent once he moved into the starting lineup. His overall field-goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage, rebounding and steals (little-noticed fact: he went from less than one steal per game coming off the bench to nearly two steals per game as a starter) all improved over Carolina's final 13 games of the season, when he was a starter.
Postseason: Hairston was a first-team All-ACC Tournament pick after averaging 20.7 points in Carolina's three games and shooting an even 50 percent from the field, plus 48.1% from three-point range. He sandwiched terrific 21-point and 28-point outings against FSU and Miami around a relatively average (by his standards) 13-point showing against Maryland in a game where he was still showing the effects of suffering a nasty looking cut late in the game against the Seminoles. No, we are not linking that video here, because it was gross.
Hairston had a team-high 23 points against Villanova in the NCAA opener. He shot 6-of-17 against Kansas but did have a career-high nine rebounds against the Jayhawks.
Areas of improvement: Hairston showed a dramatic evolution as a sophomore, turning from a freshman who was largely just a three-point shooter into a more complete player in his second year. He led the team in free throw attempts by a wide margin when he was in the starting lineup (he shot 57 free throws in that stretch, while James Michael McAdoo was second with 47). Carolina wants him at the line for two reasons: first, because they don't have that Tyler Zeller or Tyler Hansbrough in the post who is a consistent bet to either score or get fouled, and second, because he is the best free throw shooter on the team. If he continues to show a more complete game, teams will have to make an unenviable choice--let him shoot three-pointers or allow him to drive, when he's likely to score or get fouled (and then score).
Hairston isn't yet a completely instinctive ballhandler, but he did have a positive assist/turnover ratio (46:39) as a sophomore.
He has the strength and frame to be an even more ferocious defender. He showed a willingness to bang in the post last year, and there aren't many ACC wings who would be excited about trying to move him around.
Season stats: 33: The number of consecutive games in which Hairston has made a three-pointer, the longest active ACC streak and fourth-most all-time at UNC (Shammond Williams, Hubert Davis and Rashad McCants each made one in 34 straight games).
5: The number of categories in which Hairston led the Tar Heel starters against NCAA Tournament teams (field goal percentage, three-point percentage, blocked shots, steals and points)...while playing fewer minutes than the other four players who ended the year as starters.
8.9: The points per game increase for Hairston from his freshman to sophomore years, the third-highest increase by an individual in the Roy Williams era (the leader is Reyshawn Terry, second is David Noel).
Adam Lucas is a GoHeels columnist and the editor of CAROLINA.