Hairston Honing His Shot

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After shooting a woeful 18.7 percent from behind the arc over the final 23 games of his freshman season, P.J. Hairston turned to his parents for guidance on how to get his shot back.

Hairston opened his UNC career by knocking down 37.5 percent of his treys (24-of-64) over a 15-game stretch. But once ACC play opened in early January, the Greensboro, N.C. sharpshooter lost his touch and would spend the remainder of the season searching for it.

Hairston missed 61 of his final 75 3-pointers, including a 2-for-13 effort in the NCAA Tournament.

"The drought, I'd never shot that badly before, it was new to me," Hairston said on Thursday. "So I called my mom one day asking her what I need to do.

"I was in the gym, doing everything I needed to do, and she said 'You need to get your priorities straight - it needs to be your No. 1 priority other than school ... you need to stay in the gym, get at least 500 shots up but you need to do that yourself. I can't be there for you, you're grown now, you have to do these things on your own.'"

Hairston's offseason plan is to focus on his shot concentration, but that goal was temporarily put on hold due to a shoulder sprain.

"In pickup almost three weeks ago, I was driving the lane, shot a floater and someone pushed my arm back and it kind of popped," said Hairston, while wearing an ice wrap on his right shoulder. "... I thought it was more serious then it was, but it's just a sprain. I'd never hurt my shoulder before so it was something new. It's still sore now but I should be playing by this weekend."

Prior to the injury, Hairston indicated that he had improved his ball-handling skills and that his jump shot was "looking pure." He also provided some insight into the recovery process for teammates Leslie McDonald and Dexter Strickland.

"Right now, [Leslie] is dunking, shooting threes - back to the Les' everyone knows," Hairston said. "Dexter's doing good, and actually starting to run now. Leslie, Reggie [Bullock] and Dexter joke around because those three had knee injuries and I'm always the awkward one around because I never hurt my knee, so I knock on wood whenever I'm around them. "

McDonald told reporters on Wednesday that he was the best shooter on the team. When that comment was relayed to Hairston, he replied with a laugh: "Les' has his confidence back, apparently, so I'll just let him prove it. I think I'm the best shooter on the team, you can ask Reggie and Leslie."

One benefit for Hairston, as well as UNC's other perimeter players, has been the arrival of new assistant coach and former Tar Heel sharpshooter Hubert Davis.

"Coming from a shooter to a shooter, he knows more than I do and I worked with him for about 30-45 minutes getting up mid-range shots, shooting straight up and down," Hairston said. "He said my shot looks good, but I just have a habit of kicking my foot out sometimes and that'll cause my shot to come up short…

"He sent me an email of Ray Allen with video of how he shoots and every time he shoots, no matter where he's shooting or how he's shooting, he's straight up and down."

Hairston has already proven that he can start a season on fire. Now he's just got to prove that he can close a season in similar fashion.

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