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NBA draft: UNC’s PJ Hairston lands in Charlotte with Hornets

P.J. Hairston’s family was prepared for him to go to any of the 30 NBA teams Thursday night.

At Greenboro’s Ham’s Restaurant on South Elm Street, the family had hats for every NBA team placed nearby.

He ended up wearing a very familiar hat.

The Charlotte Hornets nabbed the former North Carolina shooting guard with the 26th overall pick of Thursday’s draft, keeping the 6-foot-5 shooter in the state he was born and raised in.

Hairston was technically a Miami Heat selection after the Hornets traded guard Shabazz Napier at 24th overall back to the Heat at No. 26 for the No. 55 pick and a future second-rounder.

Hairston, who starred at Dudley High School for three years, worked out for the Hornets twice. He fills an immediate need in Charlotte with his shooting and above-average defense.

Hairston showed his range in the college game can translate to the professional level in the NBA Development League where he averaged 35.8 percent from the 3-point arc. Hairston did not play his final two seasons with the Tar Heels after an NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits.

In a recent interview with the Observer, Hairston said the experience in the D League humbled him, and he regretted the mistakes he made at UNC that led to the end of his college career.

Hairston was charged with marijuana possession and driving without a license after he was stopped at a checkpoint last June in Durham. He was driving a 2013 GMC Yukon rented by Haydn “Fats” Thomas, a felon and party promoter.

A joint investigation with the NCAA and UNC forced Hairston, who was the Tar Heels’ leading scorer, to miss the first 10 games of the 2013-14 season for accepting rental cars. The school did not apply for reinstatement, effectively ending his collegiate career.

“I am happy that he will still play in state and for another Tar Heel, Michael Jordan,” UNC coach Roy Williams said in a statement. “Life has given him another opportunity and he will take great advantage of that chance.”

But there were questions about his maturity and if he would be able to handle playing close to home. Hairston and those close to him expressed varying degrees of mixed emotions about Hairston playing in Charlotte.

“That would be lovely and my family could come to games and it’d be convenient, but at the same time I don’t want people to have the idea of, ‘Can he focus?’ ” Hairston told the Observer on Tuesday. “I feel like if I got drafted in Charlotte, people would be more worried about me than the basketball side. That’s the only question, because I want people to watch basketball and not be worried about my personal life.”

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9
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