On Friday, I wrote a bit about the news that UNC freshman P.J. Hairston -- a sweet-shooting guard listed among the best players in the nation at his position -- had been very impressive in the Greater N.C. Pro-Am, a summer-league collection of current and former college hoops talent. This, I wrote, was a good sign for UNC; Hairston's shooting could be the perfect complement to a team that in 2011 was good at just about everything but outside shooting.
Somewhere in there, I missed Thursday night's late news out of Chapel Hill, N.C. It turns out Hairston might have to be as good as advertised right away, because shooting guard Leslie McDonald -- the likely starter in 2011-12 -- had suffered a potentially season-ending ACL tear in a summer-league game in Durham. North Carolina announced the news with a statement from Roy Williams, and it sounds downright devastating for McDonald's short-term prospects:
"I just hate this for Leslie and his family," says head coach Roy Williams."He's worked so hard this offseason and he told me he was really playing well. We'll certainly support him as he works to get back on the floor, but we will miss his play on both ends of the court."
Brutal stuff, those ACL tears. In this case, UNC is lucky, because with Hairston and sophomore Reggie Bullock, it has at least two highly touted guard replacements already waiting in the wings. Bullock was solid in limited usage in 2011, though he was brilliant at various times, especially early in the season and especially on the offensive end of the floor. Hairston is an elite prospect who might have contributed immediately whether McDonald started or not. Both players will now have a much greater opportunity to shine, and it could be fascinating to see how Williams manages his lineup and breeds a level of healthy competition at the position.
This is why it's nice to be a loaded hoops powerhouse: When your starting shooting guard goes down, the news hardly registers. Everyone just assumes you'll plug in one of your brilliant young scorers and barely miss a step. How's that for personnel luxury?