- Read Part I
‘Heart of a Champion'
GREENSBORO, N.C. --- Being one of the best shooters in the nation isn't easy. When post players don't get the ball or point guards aren't looking for their shot people sometimes give them a free pass. Shooters always have to be on.
Dec. 1 against Pfafftown Reagan High, P.J. Hairston wasn't on. He struggled with his shot early as Dudley fell behind by seven points in the first quarter. Hairston had to figure something out.
"We had good looks but we weren't making shots and he decided to take over," Dudley head coach David Price explained. "He went down and he tipped a rebound and didn't get it. So the next time he got it, he grabbed it and went back up straight up with one hand and just ripped it. I thought that dunk sent a message throughout that whole gym. It sent one to me.
"It was just hard, nasty," Price said. "From there we just took off."
It's moments like this that make Price hesitant to give Hairston the shooter label.
"It's unfair if you haven't seen him," Price said. "I think he does so much as a basketball player. He does enough things without shooting. He's got good post moves. We post him up and he might have the best post moves on the team."
Price said Hairston does whatever it takes to win basketball games, whether his shot is falling or not. If he has to be the best defender on the floor, he will. If he has to get 10 offensive rebounds like he did against Reagan, he does. He just wants to win.
"He's got the heart of a champion," Price said.
As a guard, Hairston leads Dudley in rebounds and is one of the strongest players on the team. He came into high school at 200 pounds and has expanded his frame to 220 in just over two years. To put that in perspective, Hairston weighs as much as a 17-year old as Vince Carter does now as an NBA veteran.
"A lot of people don't realize how hard our kids work in the weight room. He isn't just strong by accident," Price said. "It comes from hard work in the weight room."
Hairston said his step dad's football background also helped get him used to contact.
"That probably comes a little bit from him. We used to get after it a lot," Hairston said. "He always worked hard. I remember watching him when I was little and he worked hard. I guess I took a little bit from that."
(Check back tomorrow for Part III ...)