North Carolina sophomore P.J. Hairston, whose insertion into the starting lineup in February helped push the Tar Heels to the NCAA tournament, will return to UNC next season, the school announced Friday.
"I have spent a lot of time with my family over the past couple of days discussing school and my future, and I have decided to return to the University of North Carolina for my junior year," Hairston said in a statement. "I value the experiences I have had over the past two years in Chapel Hill and hope to continue to grow under Coach Roy [Williams'] guidance.
"Coach always says, 'When you focus on the team during the season, I will support you in the offseason.' This is my way of supporting Coach, my teammates and the Tar Heel community."
Hairston, who led the Tar Heels with 14.6 points per game this season, was particularly key down the stretch. After UNC lost at Miami by 26 points on Feb. 9, Williams opted to switch to a four-guard lineup, inserting the 6-foot-5 Hairston at the 4. UNC went 9-4 after the switch, advancing to the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament, where it lost to Kansas. Over his final 13 games, Hairston averaged 18.2 points.
"Throughout this process, it has been amazing to watch P.J. utilize the values we have taught him," Hairston's mother, Wendy Mailey, said in a statement. "I am proud that he took the initiative to weigh the impact of short-term gratification versus long-term success to come to his decision to stay in school.
"I've watched him continually mature and learn from each lesson he has been faced with over the past two years. And now, his commitment to furthering his education, and to his coach and teammates, further exemplifies his growth."
The Tar Heels have not announced whether junior winger Reggie Bullock or sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo are returning to school. But with incoming freshmen Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks -- rated the No. 8 power forward prospect and No. 4 center, respectively, by ESPN.com -- expected to help bolster the frontcourt and starting shooting guard Dexter Strickland graduating, Hairston likely will return to his more natural off-guard position next season.