CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina coach Roy Williams will allow suspended guard P.J. Hairston to practice with the team when it begins workouts Friday.
Williams suspended his leading scorer indefinitely in July after he was charged with speeding and reckless driving. He had also twice been cited by authorities during the offseason while driving a rental vehicle linked to a felon.
In a statement Thursday, Williams said it is Hairston’s “first step toward permanently earning his place back on the roster” and that Hairston would sit out an undetermined number of games. In a news conference after that release, Williams said he has put Hairston through 18 days of extra conditioning work and stripped him of any leadership role on the team as part of his punishment.
He said he’ll make a final decision on Hairston’s punishment before the season opener Nov. 8against Oakland. When asked whether the NCAA was involved in that process, Williams said, “I can’t speak for what the NCAA is doing or not doing. I know Roy Williams has a tremendous voice in what else is going to be done.”
“P.J. has done more conditioning this preseason than any player I’ve ever had,” Williams said. “He’s done more than three times more than any player I’ve ever had. He has not asked me the question yet but I know it’s in his mind: he’s wondering if he’s on a track scholarship.”
Hairston wasn’t available for the team’s preseason media day interviews, but issued a statement apologizing for his actions.
“I know I let a lot of people down, including our fans and all the people who love not just the basketball team but UNC,” Hairston said. “I will do whatever I can to regain your faith in me and make sure that I represent the school and the Tar Heels with respect in the future.”
In addition, Williams said senior Leslie McDonald also has lost “leadership rights” for now. Earlier this summer, the school sent a letter ordering a company that makes designer mouth guards to stop using McDonald on a web site promoting its brand.
McDonald had made at least one post on social media last year about wearing one of the company’s mouth guards during a game. NCAA rules generally prohibit athletes from endorsing or promoting a company or product.
Williams said he has no concerns about McDonald’s eligibility. McDonald declined to talk in detail about the mouth guard issue.
“For myself, I talked to the coaching staff and coach,” he said. “We’re discussing the whole thing. For right now, I don’t think this is the environment to discuss anything about any negativity that happened in the summer.”