Latest citation a trend for troubled star

Stories of professional athletes breaking the law or finding themselves in legal trouble are a dime a dozen in today’s 24-7 news cycle.

Just in the past year, we’ve seen one of the National Football League’s best players, Adrian Peterson, indicted for reckless or negligent injury for disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch. Ray Rice was suspended from the Baltimore Ravens after elevator surveillance footage showed him punching his then-fiance, though he did end up avoiding trial, and even World Cup hero Hope Solo faced domestic violence charges for allegedly beating her half-sister and nephew.

Countless other cases of celebrated sports figures getting arrested for crimes, like driving under the influence or drug possession, litter the tabloid headlines.

Very rarely am I moved when I see an athlete linked to wrongdoing, and as sad as it was for me to see former University of North Carolina star and current Charlotte Hornets guard P.J. Hairston lined up in the legal crosshairs once again, that, too, did not come as a surprise.

Reports surfaced earlier this week that Hairston was cited June 18 in Charlotte for driving with a revoked license and expired tags, speeding and driving left of the center line. Police records state that Hairston was traveling 51 mph in a 35 mph zone.

Hairston’s latest troubles are far from egregious, but it marks the third straight summer that the enigmatic Greensboro native has found himself in trouble with the law.

Heading into his junior year in 2013, Hairston was arrested in Durham for marijuana possession during a traffic stop, and a loaded handgun was later found outside near the 2013 GMC Yukon he was driving.

Though the marijuana charges were dropped, Hairston was not able to escape the NCAA. The Yukon, which was discovered to be a rented vehicle tied to convicted felon and party promoter Haydn “Fats” Thomas, led to a six-month investigation that eventually costed Hairston his junior season as a member of the Tar Heels due to him receiving impermissible benefits.

He was also cited earlier that summer for speeding violations in other vehicles linked to Thomas.

As a senior at UNC, I watched Hairston grow from an inconsistent and cold-shooting freshman to becoming the Tar Heels’ best offensive player and most prolific threat from beyond the arc as a sophomore. He improved his points per game from 5.7 to 14.6, and his 3-point proficiency skyrocketed from 27.3 percent to 39.6.

He flirted with the NBA after his second season, but decided to come back, posting on his personal Twitter page at the time, “My junior year will be one to remember.”

Oh, it certainly was one to remember alright.

After the Tar Heels did not reinstate him, Hairston joined the NBA Development League in preparation for the NBA Draft the next summer. He was selected 26th overall by the Hornets, and afterwards stressed that he had put his past behind him and learned from his mistakes.

Soon afterwards, Hairston was involved in a skirmish with a high-schooler during a pick-up basketball game at a Durham YMCA. He was charged with misdemeanor assault, though it was later dismissed, after it was alleged that he punched the youth.

Hairston had a rocky rookie season in the league and struggled to find his shot, much like he did in his inaugural year at UNC. But for his sake, let’s hope he improves his behavior off the court before worrying about further crafting his game.

Logan Martinez can be reached at 910-506-3170. Follow him on Twitter @L_Martinez13.