Former UNC guard P.J. Hairston said Thursday that he plans to stay away from Durham after a series of problems in the city derailed his college basketball career and attracted negative attention ahead of his rookie year with the Charlotte Hornets.
On Monday, the Durham County Sheriff's Office issued a summons for Hairston to appear in court on misdemeanor charges of assault and battery following an altercation at a pickup basketball game on Sunday.
While Hairston has been cautious about commenting on the legal matter, he told reporters Thursday that he didn't "have a reason to be back" in Durham.
"I have a job now, so I can't risk my job anymore; and I feel like now I have guys here that I can play ball with. So I don't need to be anywhere else," Hairston said.
He said that being at the four-day Hornets summer camp has been a "sanctuary" for him and it is "how I focus and stay away from everything."
Hairston's summons comes after 17-year-old Kentrell Barkley claimed in court documents that the former UNC guard "punched him twice in the head" on Sunday during a heated basketball game at the Durham YMCA.
Barkley said Hairston became annoyed after his team had lost several games in a row to Barkley's team, at which point he said Hairston dribbled down the court with his left hand and punched the teen with his other in the head before driving to the basket.Barkley's account of the incident differs from that of Hairston's agent Juan Morrow, however, who said there was a shoving match between the two players and Barkley "took a swing at P.J. and P.J. swung back."
Still, Hairston admitted Thursday that he's maturing and learning, and the accusations are something he'll have to move on from.
"I'm still growing up and I still have a lot of growing up to do," Hairston said. "Life is life, and you're going to make mistakes."
He added, "I'm grown now, I'm a man. I have to take stuff into my own hands."
Hornets coach Steve Clifford said he is confident that Hairston can bounce back and agreed that the confrontation was part of his "maturation process."?
"I think he does understand that at this level, it's all on him at the end of the day," Clifford said. "We should all use every crisis or setback as an opportunity to learn. And that's what I hope that he'll do."
"The more I get to know him and watch him, the more confident I am that being a good player is important to him, that he's got good personal qualities and he's going to figure this thing out."
Although Hairston was North Carolina's leading scorer as a sophomore in 2013, he did not play last year because of a number of run-ins with the law. The school decided in December it would not seek reinstatement from the NCAA for Hairston, thus ending his college career.
In June 2013, Hairston and two others were arrested in Durham on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charges while driving a 2013 GMC Yukon that was rented by Haydn Patrick "Fats" Thomas. The charge against Hairston was later dismissed.
Hairston was also pulled in May 2013 for speeding in a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro that was rented under a woman's name sharing Thomas' home address.
Thomas is a convicted Felon who in November pleaded guilty to charges of possession of a firearm by a felon, drug possession with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia from a December 2012 arrest.
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