What does this commitment mean for North Carolina?
Dave Telep: Picking up one of the top players in the state is never a bad thing. A lot of people didn't have an opportunity to see a healthy P.J. Hairston this summer (because of an injury suffered right before the July evaluation periods) and a healthy P.J. is one of the best wings in the country – he proved that at the Nike Hoop Jamboree. At the end of the day there are two things about P.J. Hairston that stand out: he is very competitive – winning matters to him – and he has a jumpshot that translates to any level of college basketball.
Rob Harrington: His commitment addresses their No. 1 concern. He won't arrive for a couple years, but they needed a shooter. As the next season unfolds, that lack of a pure shooter will become more evident. Their shooting concerns are very well founded and getting Hairston address that. He's the best shooter of anyone that's on their recruiting board in any class. In addition to that, I think a key for taking an underclassman commitment is that Hairston hasn't plateaued. He's a lot better than he was. Some early commitments that haven't panned out for teams are guys who peak early as freshmen or sophomores. The strides Hairston has made from his freshman to sophomore year and into the summer are that of someone still on incline. He's more athletic, a better rebounder and is handling it a little bit better now. And from Carolina's perspective, they'd been disappointed with some of the situations that have emerged in the state the last few years and for them to get another elite in-state player reaffirms their place in this state.
The jumpshot is an obvious strength of Hairston's game. What makes him such a great shooter and what other strengths does he bring to the table?
Telep: He has tremendous confidence in his jumper. It is a quick release and he gives it a chance to go in all the time. His size for his position matters and I think P.J. doesn't have to play behind the line to be a good shooter. And the one thing I think he's done as a sophomore and early this summer is to become better off the dribble using his athleticism. He has a very big and strong body and there's no reason for him not to get to the rim even more. And he started doing that. Anybody who was at the Kinston-Dudley playoff game in March could have told you that they caught a glimpse of the future Tar Heel perimeter – that was the two best wing players in the state going head to head.
Harrington: The thing about his shot is that he has a legitimate college jumpshot – he elevates well and has a quick release. This isn't a shooter who will need to change his form – it's college ready. He has a similar release to Jack McClinton of Miami – it's a quick-wrist release – and he has a lot of range. He'll get a lot of good looks in college even when guys are trying to take him out – he'll still be able to get good shots. In addition to that he'll be a power swingman. I don't know if he'll ever become an exclusive two-guard, but I think he'll be able to defend either wing position. And he's a good offensive rebounder. I think he'll become a pretty good defender because of his strength and he's also, in terms of intangibles, a tough, no-nonsense competitor.
The early knock on his game was an over-reliance on the outside shot. Is that still the case? What areas does he need to improve on over the next two years before arriving at UNC?
Telep: The thing he has to improve on above anything else is his ball handling. He has to become a confident handler in traffic and to me that's the area where he has the most strides to make. Yet something we often overlook in this business is that P.J. has played just two years of high school basketball. It may be the trend that we're talking about these guys early on, but he's getting better every year and there's no reason to think he doesn't make more big strides in his game. And it's important to note that not only are you taking a guy who is a potential high school all-American, but you're putting him on a roster where he already has some established relationships - and there's a lot to be said for his relationship with Reggie Bullock. Those guys are going to play on the same court together and they've got great chemistry. That goes into team building. The bottom line is those guys can play together – where you put them on the court is for Roy Williams to decide.
Harrington: I think a lot of that goes back to the ball handling issue. He's a pretty good mid-range shooter but has a hard time dribbling against pressure. If he can get into that sweet spot, he'll shoot well, but a large part is getting there. Certainly some of it is his shot selection, but the one area he really needs to address is his dribbling. He handles much like Danny Green did at this stage. If he's going to become a true shooting guard he's going to need to become a better ball handler.