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UNC basketball: Former Tar Heel P.J. Hairston walks away from basketball

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His five-year professional career appears to have come to an end.

North Carolina State v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

In an Instagram post on Friday, former Tar Heel P.J. Hairston announced that he had decided to end his basketball career for health reasons. He had five seasons in the professional ranks, last playing the D-League in 2016-17.

To pretty much everyone reading this, and basketball fans in general, he will probably be more remembered for his college career with UNC. Hairston had two seasons in Chapel Hill, breaking out and forcing his way into the starting lineup in 2012-13. He finished that season averaging 14.6 points per game, and shooting just under 40% from three.

Hairston was expected to be a key part of the following season’s preseason top 15 team, but some minor legal issues that offseason spilled into some NCAA issues, and that would eventually be that. He sat out the early games of that 2013-14 season, and the school eventually decided against trying to get him reinstated in December of that year.

After spending some time in the D-League that winter, Hairston was selected with the 26th pick of the 2014 NBA Draft by the Miami Heat. The pick was part of a draft day trade that saw him sent to the Charlotte Hornets. After two seasons there, he was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies. Despite setting a career high in points a couple times in Memphis, he struggled with shooting, and never got another chance in the NBA after the 2015-16 season.

For a lot of people, including Carolina fans, this will be a story of missed opportunity. For UNC, there’s certainly something in that. The 2014 team ended up as a #6 seed and second round loser. With Hairston, who was expected to be a key on offense, you would think they could have improved on their performance. Roy Williams said that season that Hairston had, in preseason practice, been one of the most dominant wings he’d ever coached.

As for Hairston himself, while I’m sure this isn’t the career he would have imagined for himself, he was still a first round pick. While there probably aren’t NBA teams aggressively pursuing him that could potentially change his mind, he’s says he’s retiring for health reasons opposed to lack of options. At the end of the day, the mistakes that he made at UNC were still the mistakes of a 20-year old.

It’s hard to know truly what would have happened to his career had summer 2013 not gone down the way it had. However it did, and now one of the weirder Tar Heel career arcs appears to have come to a close.