Hairston tries out for World University team in Colorado
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Thousands of miles away from Chapel Hill and all of his problems, North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston shook his defender and set up in the corner of a basketball court at the U.S. Olympic Training Center on Monday afternoon.
He caught the pass coming his way, took a breath and released his shot. Swish.
It was a scene that could have been from any of Hairston’s 34 games last season. But alas, the circumstances surrounding Hairston and this particular 3-point bucket vary greatly from his heralded performances of grit and determination in the 2012-13 season.
In a cocoon created by the Colorado Springs-based training center, Hairston practiced with 26 other players selected to try out for USA Basketball’s World University Games squad, set to travel to Kazan, Russia, on July 7 for the week-long tournament.
“I’m not worried about anything,” Hairston said. “I’m just worried about USA basketball and trying to help us win a gold medal.”
He drained deep 3-pointers, dove to the hardwood for loose balls and dished out assists to open teammates.
Though the 6-foot-6 guard looked at ease on the court, Hairston admitted that the drastic change in elevation was taking a toll on him.
“The first couple of sprints up and down the court, they just felt like hell,” Hairston said. “Breathing was hard, but once you started going up and down and getting used to the rhythm of the game, everything was fine.”
Though Hairston is currently focusing on his game on the court, the Tar Heels’ three-point threat has some issues in North Carolina waiting for him off the court after a gun was discovered beside a rented vehicle the team’s leading scorer was driving on the night of his arrest nearly three weeks ago.
Hairston was arrested June 5 and charged with possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana and driving without a license.
Jason McIntyre of Big Lead Sports reported June 21 that according to a source, the NCAA is investigating Hairston’s relationship with known NBA agent and fellow Greensboro native Rodney Blackstock.
“We don’t comment on compliance issues and reported actions of the NCAA,” team spokesman Steve Kirschner said.
Blackstock was most recently in the news for his relationship with former Kansas standout Ben McLemore. In a May 4 story by USA Today, McLemore’s AAU coach Darius Cobb said Blackstock gave him two cash payments of $5,000 to sway the guard toward suiting up for the Jayhawks.
But with no definitive answers, there isn’t much for Hairston to do except keep doing what he knows on the court and try to stay out of more trouble.
The first step? Having identification at the airport to get to and from Colorado Springs, and potentially Russia, should he make the cut for USA’s World University Games team.
“I actually have my passport,” Hairston said. “So I was fine.”
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