CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina leading scorer P.J. Hairston and senior Leslie McDonald will miss the second straight game due to NCAA eligibility concerns when the No. 12 Tar Heels play Holy Cross on Friday night.
Team spokesman Steve Kirschner said Thursday the school and NCAA “are still working together” in an ongoing process. He said there is no timetable for a decision.
“It’s what it is,” Hall of Fame coach Roy Williams said during his regularly scheduled news conference in advance of Friday’s game. “Everybody’s trying to do their best. We’re trying to move along.”
Authorities twice cited Hairston during the offseason while driving a rental vehicle linked to a felon and party promoter, raising the possibility of an improper benefits violation.
The school hasn’t specified McDonald’s issue, though UNC had to send a letter this summer ordering a company that makes designer mouth guards to stop using McDonald on a website promoting its brand. McDonald had made at least one social media post last year about wearing one of the company’s mouth guards. NCAA rules prohibit athletes from endorsing or promoting a company or product.
Both players missed last week’s opener against Oakland, then the Tar Heels (1-0) had a week off during which the school had hoped to get the issues resolved. UNC will play twice in three days as part of the Hall of Fame Tipoff Tournament with no answer on the duo’s status. The Tar Heels play Belmont on Sunday.
Their absences leave UNC thin on the perimeter and without its two best 3-point shooters.
Hairston, a 6-foot-6 junior, averaged nearly 15 points last season He shot 40 percent from 3-point range and passed on entering the NBA draft in April. McDonald is a career reserve who averaged about seven points last year but was set to contend for a starting role.
Both players have been practicing with the team, though usually as reserves.
“They’ve been great teammates through all of this,” Williams said. “They’ve been wonderful in practice, they’re pushing the other guys. They’ve been quality teammates every day. But I think everybody feels for them right now.”
Sophomore wing J.P. Tokoto thrived in his first start with a career-high 13 points, showing improved shooting range in the 84-61 win against Oakland.
In addition, Williams started freshman Nate Britt at the point and moved last year’s starter, sophomore Marcus Paige, to play more at shooting guard. Paige responded by scoring 14 points and hitting four 3s.
“I’m honestly extremely frustrated,” Paige said of the uncertainty around Hairston and McDonald. “I know a lot of us are. It’s tough. It would just be nice to know, so we can move on. But that’s not in my power, so that’s all I’ve got to say about that.”
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