- Marc Stein, Senior Writer, ESPN.com
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Former North Carolina swingman P.J. Hairston will resume his basketball career in the NBA D-League with the Texas Legends.
The Legends, who held the No. 1 turn in the D-League's player selection process, used it Tuesday to select Hairston and then welcomed the former Tar Heels forward with a tweet.
— Texas Legends (@TexasLegends) January 14, 2014
Hairston formally put his name in the D-League player pool Friday, following UNC's announcement last month that it would not seek to reinstate him after he was suspended in July 2013 and under investigation for potential rules violations. The Legends, owned by Dallas Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson and coached by former NBA forward Eduardo Najera, are the Mavericks' D-League affiliate.
"I'm extremely grateful that the Texas Legends organization believes in my abilities, and thank them for signing me to their team,'' Hairston said in a statement from the team. "I intend to take full advantage of this opportunity. This is another positive step towards accomplishing the goals I set out for myself. This is an exciting time.''
According to league rules, no NBA team can call up Hairston this season because he is eligible to enter the NBA draft this June. Thanasis Antetokounmpo, brother of Milwaukee Bucks rookie sensation Giannis Antetokounmpo, is in a similar situation this season with the D-League's Delaware 87ers, having committed to spending the entire season in the NBA's official developmental league before putting his name in the next NBA draft.
Hairston, 21, released a statement Friday in which he said he has enrolled in an online course at North Carolina in addition to choosing the D-League over signing a contract overseas in hopes of improving his NBA draft stock.
"I am excited to continue to pursue my degree at UNC while also pursuing my dream of becoming a professional basketball player," Hairston said.
Hairston was expected to be North Carolina's go-to guy after leading the team in scoring last season, but school officials announced Dec. 20 that North Carolina would not seek Hairston's reinstatement from the NCAA. He was suspended in July 2013 after being cited for speeding and careless and reckless driving. It was also revealed he used multiple rental cars provided by third parties, most notably convicted felon and party promoter Haydn "Fats" Thomas, which sparked an investigation into potential rules violations.
Said North Carolina coach Roy Williams in a recent statement: "I am extremely disappointed for P.J., his family and our team as he will no longer be playing basketball at North Carolina. P.J. made mistakes and I was very disappointed by his actions and now he is suffering the very difficult consequences. He is not a bad kid; he just made some mistakes."
ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman reported last week that Hairston, according to several NBA executives, could play his way into the first round of the draft with strong play in the D-League. One general manager told Goodman that Hairston, at present, is considered a fringe first-rounder.
Former North Carolina swingman P.J. Hairston, suspended by the NCAA last month for rules violations, will resume his basketball career in the NBA D-League with the Texas Legends.