P.J. Hairston is the most indispensable player on the North Carolina Tar Heel basketball team. 

First, take a minute and let that sink in.

Now here’s why:

Hairston brings a toughness and intensity to the Tar Heels that doesn’t exist when he’s not on the court. He’s one of only a couple guys on the team that consistently attacks the basket with aggression and purpose. With the mentality of a star player, PJ’s confidence spreads throughout his teammates. Whichever term you want to put to it, the entire team is inspired by his play and brings their best effort to the court just by playing alongside him. This ability is priceless. He has to play as much as possible for UNC to be at its best.

Hairston also has tremendous versatility. He can play three different positions on both sides of the floor, and he uses his strength and basketball IQ to succeed against players of all sizes. He sets great screens, hustles on defense to take charges and get in the passing lanes, and can play outside or in the post.

Not all players can come off the bench on fire like Danny Green. Hairston shoots the ball much better when he’s in rhythm, and it’s really tough to get there when you’re playing inconsistent minutes in short spurts. Despite his slumps, his shots are never far from the mark, always missing either long or short. This is the sign of a great shooter, and he’ll find the range once he’s given the freedom to play his game.

PJ is the most talented scorer and most tenacious competitor on the team, and he takes care of the ball. His immense value was on display in the Heels’ best performance of the year against UNLV. Under no circumstances should a team play better with its most consistent player out with an injury, but that’s how important P.J. Hairston is to this team. His 32 minutes was by far a season high, and he’ll need to play that much or more for the Tar Heels to make the NCAA tournament.

Next week’s feature… Brice Johnson


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(image by Todd Melet)