Hornets’ Hairston looks to put mistakes behind him

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) - Charlotte Hornets shooting guard P.J. Hairston said he’s learned from his past mistakes and believes his off-the-court problems are behind him.

Hairston, the 26th overall pick in the NBA draft, said Friday at introductory press conference that he “fully regrets everything that happened” around benefits and eligibility issues while playing at North Carolina.

Hairston said he’s matured over the past year.

“I’ve some bumps in the road that I had to overcome and I feel like I’ve done that,” Hairston said.

Hairston rose to prominence as a sophomore when he became a midseason addition to a four-guard starting lineup, becoming UNC’s leading scorer and flirting with entering the NBA draft before opting to return to school.

But he never played again for the Tar Heels. He sat out the first 10 games last season while the school worked to resolve eligibility questions for receiving improper benefits, tied largely to the use of rental cars linked to Durham felon and party promoter Haydn Patrick “Fats” Thomas.

Authorities cited Hairston in May and June 2013 while he was driving vehicles linked to Thomas, the second time leading to a later-dismissed charge for misdemeanor marijuana possession.

The school decided in December it would not seek reinstatement from the NCAA for Hairston due to several violations, ending his college career and ultimately sending him to the NBA Development League.

He said he’s put the past behind him and his focus is on helping the Hornets become “a hundred times better.”

General manager Rich Cho introduced Hairston and power forward Noah Vonleh from Indiana, the team’s other first-round draft pick, at a press conference at the team’s downtown arena.

Cho said the team did plenty of research on all of the team’s potential draft picks, including Hairston. He said after speaking with Hairston he walked away confident he wouldn’t be a distraction.

“He was pretty forthcoming with some of the mistakes he’s made,” Cho said. “I think that’s a positive. We’re giving him a fresh start and I think he will take advantage of that.”

Hairston has a chance to make a big impact for the Hornets.

Charlotte was 26th in the league last season in 3-point field goals made, which happens to be Hairston’s biggest strength.

“He’s got range, strength and physicality,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said. “I think the quicker he gets in here and gets to work we will lock in on two or three areas of this game. I think he has a chance to be a very good player.”

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