TOC: P.J. Hairston Q&A

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. --- P.J. Hairston has been a frequent visitor to the Smith Center over the past year, and he was back in the building on Friday night for the Tournament of Champions. The rising junior from Greensboro spoke with after his opening game ...

What'd you think of your performance tonight?

I started off real slow in the first half, making simple turnovers I shouldn't be making. In the second half I really picked it up, tried to be aggressive, play defense – block shots and take charges.

You've got the reputation of being a big-time outside shooter, but your perimeter shots weren't falling tonight so you put the ball on the floor and had success driving. Is that something you've been working on?

That's the main thing I'm working on this summer. The country already knows I can shoot and the country already knows I'm athletic, so I'm just working on getting to the hole and finishing as you saw I was doing in the game. I can finish with either hand – I've been working on that, too. I think I can help the team more by driving if my jumpshot isn't falling. I think I was 0-6 from the three-point line, but when I was taking it to the whole I was shooting 100 percent.

What have you been doing to improve your driving skills?

It's just a work ethic – an every day thing working out at the school with my coaches. We've been working on ball handling, getting to the basket and one-on-one moves and I think it's been helping me a lot.

You don't see a lot of players on the circuit take charges and you took several tonight…

That's one of the main things I do on defense. It's one of my favorite things about defense, is taking charges. During the high school season I took about three or four charges a game. People don't know when I'm going to try to block a shot or take a charge so it confuses them.

Talking recruiting, have you been in recent contact with North Carolina?

They talk to my coaches all the time. I haven't gotten an offer yet, but I talk to the coaches and we have mutual interest – I'm very interested in them and they're very interested in me.

Can you explain what the offer process with UNC entails and where that stands?

They said after my sophomore season they can offer. After school ends – I think it's June 15, I think that's the day they can call me. I'm not going to say that's when it's going to happen, but I'm looking forward to it.

So let's say Roy Williams calls and offers you then, would you accept?

I'd love to play here, but there are a whole lot of other schools …

What are those other schools?

The schools that are interested in me are North Carolina, Memphis, Georgetown, Duke, Indiana, Florida, Wake Forest and I think that's it.

Do you have any visits lined up in the near future?

I'm supposed to be going to Georgetown sometime in June after the high school summer league. I'll probably come up to Chapel Hill in the summer and visit.

Is this your first time playing in the Smith Center?

No, I played here last year – 16s with the Gators.

What was it like when you first walked into the building?

It was just ‘wow.' The game I was most amazed that I came to, the Carolina-Duke game, Michael Jordan walked in front of me and my eyes got real big. Me and Reggie Bullock were trying to sneak a picture with him but he was walking too fast so we couldn't catch him. I had my cell phone facing us as he walked up, but he was walking too fast.

So does Reggie try to recruit you to Carolina?

He tries – him and my mom. He came and spent the night at my house one weekend and he and my mom were talking to me about coming to Carolina. My mom is a big Carolina fan. I remember the game they lost against Boston College that we came to, on the way home she was upset and she wouldn't even talk to me. She's a real big Carolina fan. She's said she wouldn't be mad at me [if I went] to any school, but she said she'd love for me to come to Carolina.

What's your relationship with Reggie?

We're real close friends. Our high schools are big rivals and we played each other in the playoffs this year in Greenville. We were going back and forth the whole game. They beat us by three, but at the end he walked up to me and gave me a hug and said ‘good game' and all that. We have a great friendship off the court. He's basically one of my best friends – he's the one I look up to.

What did you learn about his game from that head-to-head experience this past season?

He can stroke it. I knew it, but my teammates didn't know it and I was trying to tell them before that he can shoot. He can really stroke it, but he can put it on the floor when he wants to, too.

How was it having him guard you?

He played some good defense. I had to work real hard coming off curls and shooting my shot. I was still trying to get to the basket and work my way in to mix up my game.

And now on the AAU circuit, what's it like playing with him?

It's real fun. We take turns. It's kind of funny because some games he'll be hot, some games I'll be hot and sometimes both of us will be on and it's hard for other teams to stop us. We played Boo Williams in the championship in Virginia and we were both on – he ended up with like 20 and I had 23 and it was real hard for Boo to stop us. We won that game by about 25.

How many trips do you think you made last year to the Smith Center for games?

I probably went to eight or nine games. Because it's not that far away from my house – it's probably about 40-45 minutes from my house. It's not that bad of a drive and traffic isn't bad.

On those trips did you get to know the UNC players?

Yeah, I met all of the guys. Actually I'm real close to Will Graves because he went to Dudley also. I talk to him after games and he gives me good advice. Like before the game tonight he told me, ‘If your shot's not falling, take it to the hole.' And, as you see, I listened to it. I looked at him after the game and he winked at me.

Does he try to recruit you to UNC, too?

Yeah, he tells me. Everyone in Greensboro is like, ‘You should go to Carolina – it's a great school.' And I tell them, ‘Carolina is a great school, but there are other great schools.' I'm not saying I'm not going to Carolina, I'm just saying there are a lot of other great schools out there.

P.J. Hairston Profile

Inside Carolina Top Stories