When P.J. Hairston walked off the McKale Center floor last Saturday following his game in the GOAZCATS.com Showdown, a boy in the crowd asked him where he would be playing his college ball, apparently impressed with Hairston’s shooting ability from all over the court.
“Right here,” said Hairston, pointing to Lute and Bobbi Olson Court, possibly doing more than just appeasing a young fan.
Although Hairston is just a freshman who turned 15 on Monday, that interaction proves his James B. Dudley High School squad was brought to Tucson all the way from Greensboro, N.C., for reasons more than being sacrificial lambs to class of 2008 Wildcat signee Brandon Jennings’ Oak Hill Academy (Va.) team.
And Jennings may not have been the only future Wildcat on the court Saturday, at least not if UA assistant coaches Josh Pastner and Miles Simon, recruiting coordinator Matt Brase and basketball operations coordinator Jesse Mermuys – all sprinkled in the crowd for the game – have something to say about it.
Hairston, a shooting guard/small forward regarded as one of the top players in the class of 2011, shot the lights out from 3-point range on his way to a team-high 26 points to go with four rebounds and four assists in his squad’s 102-91 loss.
“I was feeling it more from the outside, but I can take it in and finish (as well),” Hairston said from the front row of McKale Center as he watched the second game of the Showdown, a 63-43 win for Phoenix Desert Vista over Tucson Salpointe, the No. 1 team in Arizona according to the Arizona Republic.
Hairston named Arizona second on his early list of schools, behind only local powerhouse North Carolina, the No. 1 team in the nation. He said all the schools in his area have shown interest in him, including Duke, Wake Forest, Clemson and UNC-Charlotte, with a teammate saying it seems like every school in the country is interested in him.
The reason for that is Hairston could grow into the type of player he compared himself to: Kevin Durant.
Already standing 6 feet 5 inches tall with a mature 204-pound body, Hairston said he still has yet to hit his last growth spurt, one that could put him in the range of being a seven-footer with a lights-out jumper by the time he’s ready for college basketball.
Despite that possibility, he said he would consider committing early to a school if it felt like the right situation.
Hairston described his ideal school as “anything where I can have a good education and play ball. That’s all I want in a school.”
He added he enjoyed his experience in Tucson because the hospitality was good and the tournament organizers were respectful to him.
“I couldn’t ask for nothing better,” he said.
With a smooth jump shot that appears to be his calling card at the next level, Hairston has averaged about 22 points per game through his first six contests, rattling off his point totals by heart. After scoring 11 and 13 in his first two games while getting used to the high school level, he has not scored less than 26 in his past four.
One advantage the Wildcats may have in trying to pry Hairston away from the basketball powers in his home state of North Carolina involves Hairston having a good relationship with Matt Carlino, a freshman guard from Gilbert Highland who has already been offered a scholarship to Arizona.
Hairston played with Carlino, ranked as the nation’s No. 1 eighth grader by one recruiting service last year, at an elite camp where Hairston said the contests resembled pickup games. He added that both players hit for around 40 points in a few games and that he would enjoy playing college basketball with Carlino.
So new to the high school game the major recruiting services don’t even have rankings out for his class, Hairston said he’s just used to getting used to playing with a crowd, which he said helps him get into a rhythm.
By the way he shot the ball Saturday in McKale Center, UA fans would not mind another visit in four years from a player who could grow into the next Kevin Durant, and the feeling’s mutual after Hairston took in the McKale atmosphere – sans students – during Saturday’s 74-58 Arizona win over San Diego State.
“It would be good, I would like it,” he said. “It would be very good.”
While the Salpointe-Desert Vista game continued in the background, Hairston asked what time the local news comes on in Tucson, wondering if his hot shooting would make the night’s highlights after seeing a host of cameramen filming his game.
When told it would likely be a Brandon Jennings lovefest, he seemed disappointed, as those kinds of things are still a big deal to soon-to-be 15-year-olds not yet accustomed to the fame he could grow into.
But if Hairston keeps developing as a player and enjoys another growth spurt, he will be hard for local camera crews to ignore.
Lampkin visits as well:
One of Hairston’s teammates may have gotten a sneak peak at his future home when Dudley used the Arizona football team’s locker room to change before and after the game.
Devaughn Lampkin, also a freshman, said the UA football team has interest in him, as well as Wake Forest, North Carolina and East Carolina.
Lampkin played junior varsity last season but will play varsity next year. He plays defensive end, outside linebacker, tight end and wide receiver.