“He’s not on our team,” said coach Roy Williams after the Northern Kentucky win. “I love him to death. But he’s not on our team.”
How did he get here?
On June 5, Hairston was arrested at a Durham license checkpoint for driving without a license and marijuana possession — the starting point for what became a tumultuous summer. Hairston’s charges were later dropped.
Hairston was tied to convicted felon Haydn “Fats” Thomas, driving rental cars linked to him. And he was indefinitely suspended July 28 after receiving a speeding ticket.
Nevertheless, Hairston practiced with the Tar Heels, going through an intense conditioning program prescribed by Williams as punishment.
Both Hairston and senior guard Leslie McDonald were stripped of leadership duties, with McDonald also linked to Thomas and tied to a promotion from a mouthguard company, Iceberg Guards. Neither Hairston nor McDonald played in the first nine games.
Before UNC’s game against Texas on Dec. 18, the NCAA announced McDonald’s reinstatement. He was found to have received $1,783 in impermissible benefits and will have to repay the amount to a chairty of his choice.
Why wasn’t Hairston reinstated?
Minutes before a pre-game Williams press conference Dec. 20, the University announced that it would not apply for reinstatement for Hairston with the NCAA.
“It’s probably the most difficult and saddest thing I’ve gone through as a head coach,” Williams said.
Through a joint investigation with the NCAA, UNC determined that Hairston’s transgressions did not merit the application, Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said. He declined to discuss specifically what the investigation uncovered, only saying that Hairston’s reinstatement “would not be possible.”
What’s next for Hairston?
Hairston’s family released a statement shortly after the University announced its decision, saying Hairston would announce his own decision regarding his future in the coming weeks.
Some have speculated Hairston could play overseas before declaring for the NBA draft. The guard is also eligible to sign with the NBA Development League, which is open to players older than 18.
On Tuesday, Hairston tweeted, “My dream stands in front of me…” Two hours later, he tweeted, “Next stop, Chi Town.”
Hairston did not respond to requests for comment.