From the Grasp of the Devils
GREENSBORO, N.C. --- When Wendy Poteat talks about her love affair with North Carolina basketball, she starts young – Dean Smith young, Kenny Smith young, onesie young.
"I'm from there," she says with emphasis. "No, I'm from there. I was born in UNC hospital and left in a Carolina onesie. I've been at it for a long time."
So when Poteat was sitting watching the Heels blowing out Michigan State in the national championship game April 6 of last year, she was supposed to be happy. Instead she was in disbelief. Her star basketball prospect son, who improbably grew up a Duke fan, had fallen asleep on the couch next to her during the biggest Carolina basketball game of the season.
"I'm sitting there thinking, 'Oh my God, my son might go to Duke,'" Poteat laughed.
P.J. Hairston's roots as a Duke fan are merely a coincidence according to his mom. His basketball fandom peaked during the Blue Devils' heyday in the late '90s. He wasn't a diehard like her, but it was enough to bug her.
"We were basically at each other's necks when Duke and Carolina played," Hairston said. "Talking junk to each other."
But things started to change when Hairston spent more time around the players and staff at UNC. He started to care less about being a fan and more about what being a part of the program.
"It was the people and the fans," Hairston said. "They were so respectful and so nice. I got along with the team and the coaches real well."
The turning point in Hairston's recruitment came on a trip to the University of Florida. Poteat said she made sure they drove down to Gainesville rather than fly, so Hairston knew just how far it was. Then at the end of an admittedly impressive visit, Poteat said Gators coach Billy Donovan laid it all out for her son.
"He said 'You know a lot of coaches stop recruiting players when Roy Williams gets involved. But I'm selling something different here," Poteat remembered. "'You can go to North Carolina and it would be a great choice. You'd play at a place where lots of other great players have played and be compared to them forever. Or you can go to Florida where there haven't been a lot of great players, and you can come back in 20 years and kids will be compared to you.'"
After hearing that speech, Poteat said she thinks her son started to see the similarities between Carolina and Dudley High and started to come around. Once UNC coach Roy Williams decided to offer Hairston, it was Poteat who had to tell her son to take a day to think about it before accepting.
"Since he committed, I can't keep him out of Carolina stuff," Poteat said. "Looking at him now, you'd never know he was ever a Duke fan."
Now, Hairston can look back at his days as a Duke fan and laugh a little bit.
"She told me one day I was going to end up going to Carolina," Hairston said. "And I guess it came true."