By Megan Morketter, UNC Athletic Communications
As sophomore guard P.J. Hairston laces up for the 2012-13 basketball season, he's looking to step into a new leadership role.
In the wake of four Carolina starters departing for the NBA, the six-foot-five Greensboro native is excited to expand his skills set. Hairston has focused on becoming a more all-around player to help fill the talent gaps left by his former teammates.
"I came in with a totally different attitude than last year," said Hairston. "Came in last year known as this big shooter from Greensboro, and I kind of want to change that role around this year. I want to do more things than just shoot, so I can prove people wrong."
This summer, the guard focused on ball handing and eliminating the inconsistencies in his shot. Not comfortable enough with his ability last season, Hairston shied away from dribbling the ball up the court. But with the Tar Heels having less experience at the point position this season and head coach Roy Williams emphasizing a fast paced offense, Hairston understands that he has to take the lead more.
"Between me, Reggie (Bullock), Leslie (McDonald), Dexter (Strickland) and James (Michael McAdoo) we all have to step up and be big time players like Coach (Williams) always tells us, and if we do that, we'll be a big time team."
While Williams seems content with Carolina's defensive effort, he is less sure about the offensive prowess of his team. "I think we'll be alright defensively," said Williams. "It's just going to be, 'Can we score?'"
Usually a frontcourt driven offense, the Tar Heels this year will be shifting the focus to the perimeter. Williams expects Hairston and junior guards Bullock and McDonald, who was redshirted last season with a torn ACL, to create the bulk of the team's scoring opportunities. For Hairston, that means finding his sweet spot and holding on to it.
Plagued by a mid-season slump last year that lowered his shooting percentage to .308, Hairston is determined to be a more consistent offensive threat for the Tar Heels. According to the guard, improving his shot began with changing his mentality.
"It wasn't technically my shot, it was more me mentally than anything," said Hairston. "It was kind of like a confidence thing with me because I feel like if I miss more than three shots in a game, I just self destruct...there's nothing good that's going to happen."
The arrival of new assistant coach Hubert Davis, a former UNC guard and NBA great, came just as Hairston needed it. As the current school record holder for career three-point percentage and most three-pointers made in a single ACC game (eight), Davis has plenty of guidance to offer the young guard.
Hairston likened the work he puts in with Davis to having an entirely new class in his schedule. In the "classroom" game film that highlights his inconsistent form is compiled for him to study before he steps into the gym for his lab. Here Davis puts the student's knowledge to the test, breaking down the mechanics of Hairston's form until he masters the subject.
"My elbow was out, I was kicking my foot out, and I was leaving my shot short," said Hairston. "He (Davis) was teaching me everything I needed to do. Once I got the mechanics down, I've been going straight up and down and shots have been falling. So apparently he's right. I'm going to keep taking his advice and hopefully it carries over to the season."
According to Hairston, his shot has greatly improved with the help of Davis and some mental preparation.
"Now I feel like my confidence is through the roof," said Hairston. "I feel like I can do anything I want to do, as long as I put my mind to it."