by Megan Morketter, GoHeels.com
Patience is a virtue, and the key to Carolina's future success this season, according to sophomore guard P.J. Hairston.
Sometimes seen as quick to pull the trigger offensively, Hairston had a different philosophy following the matchup with East Carolina University Dec. 15.
For him, patience is all about two things: timing and finishing.
"You have to learn how to finish games better," said Hairston. "Not that we can't, we just have to learn to do it better, to be a lot smarter at the end and be patient. We did some things where we tried to score in the last minute instead of holding the ball, taking our time and being patient."
Hairston seemed to find the right balance of both timing and finishing Saturday as he posted 18 points and pulled down three of UNC's 10 offensive rebounds.
The Greensboro native attributes his ability to get to the rim for a put-back to his younger days when he played the four spot. Using this big man mentality to his advantage, Hairston finds ways of moving in the post and crashing the boards.
With the Tar Heels struggling to get their hands on offensive rebounds in their narrow victory, Hairston stood out, grabbing almost a third of the team's total. Head coach Roy Williams noted that it was mostly the guards doing the work as not a single post player came away with a rebound on Carolina's side of the court.
Since the Tar Heels return from Maui, Hairston has had plenty of opportunity to refine his post play as the team has been working the smaller lineup during every practice.
"It's just another position," said freshman J.P. Tokoto, who has also been filling in the four, sometimes five spot. "You've got to be able to adjust. 'Be a basketball player' is what Coach (Williams) always says."
As Hairston and Tokoto work to establish a stronger presence in the post, Tokoto has noticed the guard's agility in practice and is not surprised when it translates to a game.
"P.J., he's a basketball player," said Tokoto. "It's nothing new to us. He can hurt you in many different ways, attacking the glass of course, using that athleticism. Oftentimes people close out expecting a shot; little do they know he can go right past you because he's quick and he's got that size."
Hairston said he has been doing just that, lately. He wants to be a threat not only from beyond the arc, but driving as well. And that showed against ECU as 12 of the guard's points came from inside the three-point line.
Big man James Michael McAdoo admitted that though he enjoys having the post to himself, bringing guards into the frontcourt opens up the floor. It allows for better spacing, creating more defined driving lanes that Hairston intends to take advantage of from now on.
However amidst all the spacing opportunities, all the rebounding woes, it all boils down to one simple point stated eloquently by the guard.
"No one likes to lose," said Hairston. "That's anybody on any team. But you just have to want it more."