Inside The Game: P.J. Hairston

P.J. Hairston led Dudley to a win over Grimsley last Thursday and Inside Carolina's Matt Morgan was courtside. Go beyond the box score with a detailed breakdown of the junior Tar Heel commitment's performance ...



As much progress as P.J Hairston made with his mid-range game since last season, it's important to note that his first and second options on offense are still his perimeter shot. His drive is an impressive but developing weapon and against Grimsley he allowed his outside shooting to set up his penetration. Hairston hung around the three-point line early, hitting one of three three-pointers in the first 2:29 of the game.

When the defense adjusted to his range later in the quarter, Hairston took advantage of the overplay and showed off his expanded arsenal. With 3:15 left in the quarter he drove to the basket off a rotating defense, got to the rim, absorbed contact and finished a three-point play for his sixth and seventh points of the night.

Hairston's three-point shot also lived up to expectations against Grimsley early, shooting 2-for-4 for the quarter.

He has exceptional uniformity in his stroke, from shot to shot. He squares his shoulders and gets it off quickly. Perhaps the most impressive thing about his shot is the elevation he gets on it. He has a high release point and with his size, doesn't get a lot of shots altered.

End of quarter score: 19-15 DHS

Hairston's 1st Quarter Stats
Points - 9
FG - 3-5
3FG - 2-4
FT - 1-1


In the second quarter Hairston let the game come to him offensively and made a bigger impact on the defensive end.

Hairston probably doesn't get enough credit for his athleticism, but with his quick feet, strong frame and leaping ability, he made a lot of plays from help side on defense and even drew a couple of charges in the second quarter. Hairston has good hands, gets in passing lanes and challenges a lot of shots. At the high school level he's also physically imposing for a two-guard and can be a force on defense.

He is still a bit raw on the defensive end and his aggressive nature hurt him some early. At the end of the first quarter, he nearly came away with a steal but when the Grimsley guard recovered the ball, he took a careless swipe at it again and picked up a bad foul. That mentality transferred into the second quarter some and he got caught trying to make the big play on a couple occasions.

With 2:15 left in the quarter he was late on a rotation and allowed a three-pointer. Hairston shows a lot of game-breaking ability on defense but is still working on picking his spots.

Hairston only shot once in the first four minutes of the second but went on a late tear scoring seven points in the last 3:40 and five points in the last minute. With under four minutes to go, he started his run with a pump fake on a perimeter jumper, dribbling to the left and a pulling up from 17 feet for his 11th point. Later he took advantage of another rotating defender, penetrating for a double-clutch three-point play at the rim – his second three-point play of the game.

Late in the quarter Grimsley started playing Hairston more physically. With 33 seconds left, Hairston was pulled to the ground away from the ball and knocked down the two free throws.

End of quarter score 34-31 DHS

Hairston's 2nd Quarter Stats
Points – 7
FG - 2-4
3FG - 0-2
FT - 3-3


In the third quarter Hairston went from efficient to dynamic.

After his team squandered its first half lead and fell behind 40-38, Hairston took over, scoring seven points in 1:30 and collecting the first of four blocks. Hairston scored his first bucket of the quarter off a twisting offensive rebound put back, one of his more impressive baskets of the night. Hairston displayed tremendous body control and strength on the put back, absorbing contact, catching the ball off the glass and finishing the lay-in off balance.

After scoring, Hairston got back down the floor and erased a basket, blocking a lay-up off the backboard. Following the block, Hairston finished off a back-screen alley-oop from point guard Brennan Wyatt with 4:15 left.

Later in the quarter, Hairston was brought down again by a Grimsley defender on an off the ball cut and responded with a three-pointer from the left wing, giving his team a five-point lead.

These are the quarters that get lost in the mix with Hairston when he's pigeon holed as a shooter. He is too strong physically and too good of an athlete to be considered just a shooter. At the same time, it also explains why some don't believe his mid-range game is developed enough.

Hairston scored seven points in the quarter without making a three, but when he did score inside the arc it was off just two or three dribbles and normally a lay-in. He doesn't often try to take people off the dribble, instead opting for quick drives off rotating defenses.

End of quarter score 52-50 GHS

Hairston's 3rd Quarter Stats
Points – 9
FG - 3-6
3FG – 1-3
FT – 2-3


With his team struggling against an inferior team, Hairston showed some fire in the fourth. Fifty seconds into the quarter Hairston dunked in a rebound for his 27th point, giving the Panthers a two-point lead.

Two minutes later, Hairston was again taken down on an off-the-ball cut, leading to some jawing and an emotional state. On the next possession Hairston blocked a three-pointer out of bounds for his third block. After turning the ball over on the next possession, Hairston came up with another big block, pinning a shot against the backboard.

Hairston's blocks and early buckets sparked a huge run for Dudley. The Panthers outscored Grimsley 25-4 in the fourth quarter including a beautiful backdoor pass from Wyatt to Hairston with 1:31 left, setting up a reverse lay-up plus the foul for Hairston's final three points of the game.

Hairston showed a lot of strength finishing around the basket against Grimsley. Of his seven two-point field goals, two were from 17 feet and a third was off a tip in. Of the remaining four field goal attempts, Hairston drew three and-ones. He's a physical presence at the high school level and an absolute load to stop when he gets a head of steam.

Hairston's 4th Quarter Stats
Points – 5
FG - 1-2
3FG - 0-1
FT - 3-3

FINAL - Dudley 74, Grimsley 57

Hairston's Total Game Stats
Minutes – 31
Points - 30
FG – 9-17
3FG – 3-10
FT – 9-10
Rebounds – 11 (5 off.)
Assists – 2
Turnovers - 2
Blocks - 4
Steals - 1


On implementing his mid-range game:
"That's what I've been working on over the summer. So it's starting to work in games. Once people realize I can shoot the ball, they'll start jumping at pump fakes and give me the chance to go at the rim." – P.J. Hairston

On finishing with contact:
"I've been trying to hold onto the ball, stay physical and go through contact and make the basket also. I probably do more in weight class than everyone else on the court. So no one can really get as physical as I can." – P.J. Hairston

"He's strong enough that any contact he gets up top isn't enough to bother him. He's strong. That's something we work hard on." – Dudley coach David Price.

On dealing with physical play:
"That's something new this year, especially since we're in a new conference. They play me physical, try to bump me up a little bit. All I can do is hit their arm and try to break it off and keep going. If they're holding me it's hard to do that." – P.J. Hairston

"They probably told them to do it. But you've got to play through that. As long as the refs are calling it, just make your free throws." – David Price

"When I get frustrated, I start to play. That's the way I've been since I was about 10. When I get frustrated, I start to play even harder than I'm already playing. Sometimes it's a good thing for me to get mad." – P.J. Hairston

On Hairston's defensive philosophy:
"I don't like for him to gamble. All you need to steal a ball is fingertips and sometimes they over run it." – David Price

On Hairston's shot-blocking ability:
"That's very big for us. A lot of that is instincts. He gets the right angle. If the guy comes right at him, he takes the charge. You don't see him trying block shots when a guy comes right at him." – David Price

P.J. Hairston Profile

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