P.J. Hairston the Latest Former Star to Seek Redemption in NBA D-League
There will be plenty of time between now and June's 2014 NBA Draft to break down what P.J. Hairston can bring to a professional basketball team. But for now, the main focus should be this: The path that Hairston is taking to the NBA Development League has never been taken before. On Tuesday, he officially became the first player ever to leave his college team to sign an NBA D-League contract in the middle of the season (read press release here), remaining eligible for the 2014 draft but ineligible for an NBA Call-Up this season.
However, the circumstances surrounding the 21-year-old Hairston's big move from the University of North Carolina to the Texas Legends do have precedent in the league, and those before him have managed to find quick success after taking similar steps. The three most recent examples:
--Willie Reed was "administratively withdrawn" at the University of St. Louis in 2010 after being suspended for off-the-court conduct. He went undrafted in the 2010 NBA Draft, joined the NBA D-League's Springfield Armor last season and earned a Call-Up to the Memphis Grizzlies last April. He's now back with the Armor as our No. 17 Prospect.
--Ty Walker's tumultuous career at Wake Forest ended with a suspension before his final game for an undisclosed violation. The 24-year-old played in France last season before signing with the Maine Red Claws at the end of October. He's now NBADLeague.com's No. 29 Prospect and has reportedly drawn interest from the Thunder, Warriors and Sixers.
--Glen Rice Jr. was dismissed from the Georgia Tech basketball team during the 2011-12 season, was drafted by the RGV Vipers in the 2012 NBA D-League Draft, led the Vipers to a championship last season and was drafted by the Washington Wizards in the second round of the 2013 NBA Draft.
It's Rice Jr.'s lead that Hairston is now looking to follow. That success story last season blazed the trail for any talented college player who encounters trouble but wants to continue to pursue the NBA. Hairston -- a 6-6 wing and former five-star recruit who was ranked above NBA players like Cody Zeller, Tony Wroten and Michael Carter-Williams in the Class of 2011 -- has become the most high-profile example less than a month after UNC chose not to seek to reinstate him from his suspension for off-the-court legal problems. He could also become the latest player to demonstrate what is becoming clearer each season: The NBA D-League offers the quickest route to the NBA, the best way to remain on NBA teams' radar, and a well-traveled path to redemption.