Suspended North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston headed to D-League

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UPDATED 5:15 pm: It’s official, P.J. Hairston is a member of the D-League’s Texas Legends, the team has announced.

Hairston becomes the first player ever to start the season in college and jump to the D-League, and while North Carolina could use him the NCAA declared him ineligible.

“We are excited to add a player like PJ Hairston,” Legends Owner and Dallas Mavericks President of Basketball Operations Donnie Nelson said in a released statement.  “PJ has been on the NBA radar for a number of years now, and the opportunity for him to develop and showcase his ability with the Legends is unique.  We are surrounding PJ with all of the necessary tools to prepare himself for the NBA Draft.  I am excited to see him in a Legends uniform this weekend.”

1:30 pm: P.J. Hairston is an NBA prospect, a junior at North Carolina who was expected to be a key part of their offense (with Reggie Bullock gone). But he was suspended from the team after two arrests for driving incidents, one that involved charges of possession of marijuana and driving without a license. Then the NCAA ruled him ineligible.

So he is headed to the D-League.

College players ruled ineligible by the all-powerful NCAA (protectors of their money morality that they are) can play in the D-League and that’s where Hairston is headed, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

To me this is part what the D-League is for — an alternative to college for players who maybe were not cut out for the classes and college life but want to work on their game and get noticed, then drafted.

DraftExpress has Hairston going late in the first round (No. 28) in its latest mock draft. According to their scouting report (augmented by the time I saw him play in person) Hairston can shoot the rock and has the strength to play physically at the two in the NBA, plus he’s got defensive potential as he is aggressive and has good instincts. There are questions about his level of athleticism at the next level considering the guys he would have to guard, plus his ball handling isn’t there yet.

Plus, all the arrests are going to be a red flag for NBA teams come the June draft. If he struggled at North Carolina with off the court issues, what happens when he has more money and more time?

Still, he’s going to get a shot somewhere, and that starts in the D-League soon enough.