Hairston Aiming For USA Team

With adversity pending in Chapel Hill, P.J. Hairston headed west this week to improve his game and try out for the 2013 USA Basketball Men's World University Games Team.

Hairston is one of 26 college basketball players vying for a spot in the weeklong training camp held at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. The camp, and team, is coached by college coaches Bob McKillop (Davidson), John Beilein (Michigan) and Frank Martin (South Carolina).

"Just having the opportunity to be out here and play against some of the best players in college basketball is fun," Hairston told InsideCarolina.com late Tuesday.

North Carolina's junior wing accepted his invitation just days before he was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession at a license checkpoint in Durham. Officers also seized a handgun and ammunition, which were found on the ground outside of the rented 2013 GMC Yukon. Police haven't linked the gun to Hairston or his two passengers and UNC head coach Roy Williams told USA Today that he is "waiting until all the facts come in and then I will take care of everything that needs to be taken care of."

Late last week, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham told the Associated Press that the school was investigating whether Rodney Blackstock, the founder of a sports mentoring academy in Greensboro, N.C., had improper ties with Hairston or any other UNC athlete.

Hairston declined to comment on those issues, instead focusing on his efforts to represent the U.S. in the 2013 World University Games to be played July 7-16 in Kazan, Russia.

UNC's leading scorer (14.6 ppg) arrived in Colorado Springs on Monday prior to the camp's opening practice that evening. Practices include stretching, skill work and a heavy dose of scrimmaging.

"We switch teams up every day and we'll scrimmage about four or five games just to see how we look playing together," Hairston said.

Hairston said he's paired up with Duke's Rodney Hood – also his roommate – almost every game, as well as regular matchups with Louisville's Luke Hancock and Indiana's Will Sheehey.

His primary emphasis, of course, is improving his own game ahead of his junior year at UNC. Hairston has spent the offseason working on his midrange game, defense and ball handling.

"I knew I had to work hard to be a better ball handler," Hairston said. "And then coming out here with these college basketball players, they play defense. And whatever team they play for, they're probably the focus of the defense, so just being able to dribble the ball and being able to put it on the floor and create my own shot was my main focus."

Finalists will be announced following Wednesday's morning practice and the 12-member roster will be announced prior to the team's departure for Russia on July 1.

Hairston is aiming to become the ninth Tar Heel to represent the USA at the World University Games, joining Billy Cunningham ('65), Larry Miller ('67), Mitch Kupchak ('73), Hubert Davis ('91), George Lynch ('91), Donald Williams ('93), Brendan Haywood ('99) and Deon Thompson ('09).

With three practices in the books, Hairston has been pleased with his effort.

"I think I've done pretty well," Hairston said. "Of course, there are different shots I think I should have made that I missed, but I think on the defensive end I've done a great job as well."

Meanwhile, in Chapel Hill, the UNC team held its first of four summer practices on Tuesday.

 

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