2011's Hairston Carving His Niche

Dudley High School is one of the top programs in the state of North Carolina. It's kicked out a slew of college players and a few pros along the way. P.J. Hairston, a 2011 wing, is the next player in the Panthers pipeline.

Last summer, P.J. Hairston won a national championship. In the process, he gained valuable experience that he's hoping to put to use as his Greensboro (N.C.) Dudley team saddles up for a state championship ride.

Hairston, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, contributed to the N.C. Gaters 19-and-under AAU title. The 15-year old Hairston, along with a host of other underclassmen, ran the table in Orlando. The experience was a lesson for the 2011 wing.

"It really was. Everybody was much bigger than what I thought. I learned about intensity, I had figured it wasn't that hard. It made me stronger as a person."

Building on the strength theme, Hairston spent the remainder of his summer working out. "I've been in the weight room all summer. The coaches told me I was the hardest worker in the weight room preparing for the season. I've been trying my best to get stronger and it's paying off. I can get to the hole and finish instead of fading."

Hairston speaks openly of becoming the leader of the Panthers, one of the state's most tradition-rich programs. One a team with multiple Division I prospects – Brennan Wyatt (2010) and Reggie Dillard (2012) – Hairston doesn't want a repeat of last season's tourney loss to Kinston and Reggie Bullock.

He's already looking forward to a game against Word of God. "I talk to John Wall on the computer all the time. He doesn't have a big head at all. I told it's nothing but love off the court but on the court we've got to handle business."

The business of college basketball will one day become an issue he'll have to deal with. As programs move forward with their Hairston homework assignments, he's taking it all in stride.

"I'm not going to make my commitment early," Hairston said. "All my options are open. I have thought about it but I'm not going to do it. I'll talk to my parents about it the end of my junior year."

Thus far, North Carolina, Florida and Wake Forest have been his highest profile suitors. Billy Donovan dropped by as did Roy Williams and Dino Gaudio. Hairston's been to Wake and attended UNC's Late Night festivities. He'll be in Gainesville Jan. 3 when the Gators host N.C. State (Hairston's father played football for the Pack).

Dudley's program has kicked out its share of Division I players. The most recent notable alum is Brendan Haywood. He and Vincent Whitt (Clemson) have been back in town for camps and bent the ear of Hairston.

"They always tell me to keep my options open, don't make a decision early and be smart."

So far, Hairston right on schedule to join them.

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