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Copyright 2014 The Durham Herald Co.
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The Herald-Sun (Durham, N.C.)

DURHAM — Charlotte Hornets rookie P.J. Hairston, the troubled former North Carolina guard known for sticking 3-pointers, struck a high school player during a game of pick-up basketball at the Downtown Durham YMCA on Sunday, according to the Durham County Magistrates Office.

Hairston, 21, is charged with misdemeanor assault and battery, Durham County Chief Magistrate Don Paschall said.

Northern rising senior forward Kentrell Barkley, 17, said Hairston socked him.

Barkley threw the first punch, Hairston's agent said.

That's not the Barkley who Northern coach Ronnie Russell said he knows.

"That's not his character," Russell said. "He never displayed anything out of character."

Barkley is one of those players who puts moves on guys, finishes at the rim and generally drops his head and runs back to play defense.

"Junk talking, rag talking, he never did that," Russell said.

Hairston is more flamboyant. He's got crazy range on his 3-ball and will let everybody in the gym know it, too.

But Hairston lately appeared more subdued after UNC declared him ineligible for the 2013-14 season because he accepted impermissible benefits.

Those benefits had to do with Hairston last summer driving cars linked to convicted felon Haydn "Fats" Thomas. Hairston picked up some speeding tickets in those cars, not to mention getting dinged for misdemeanor possession of marijuana and driving without a license. The latter charges ended up getting dropped.

"I want to make this clear, I DID NOT HIT PJ OR THROW ANY PUNCHES!" Barkley wrote on his Twitter page.

Video footage from the YMCA contains the truth, Barkley said.

Downtown Durham YMCA Executive Director Forrest Perry said, "In order to respect the privacy of the parties involved in this incident, we are unable to comment on this situation."

There is no warrant for Hairston's arrest. Durham Police Department officers showed up at the YMCA and advised Barkley to tell his version to a magistrate. Barkley presented a case that was strong enough to generate charges against Hairston, who is due in Durham County District Court on Aug. 8.

Hairston practiced during the Hornets' minicamp Monday. The Miami Heat made him the 26th pick in last month's NBA draft before trading him to Charlotte. Hairston (6-6, 230) played in the NBA Development League this past season.

The Hornets released a statement saying no one from the organization right now would elaborate on what happened between Hairston and Barkley.

Shortly after 5:30 p.m. Sunday, Hairston was on one of the YMCA basketball courts telling a teammate that Barkley only could make moves to the left and to play him to the right, said Vince Phillips, who was in the gym.

Barkley informed Hairston that he'd just finished going right, Phillips said.

So Hairston got the basketball and screamed down the floor, deliberately hitting Barkley in the forehead on the way to the rim, Phillips said.

Hairston scored, by the way, Barkley said.

Barkley asked Hairston why he hit him, and Hairston cocked back and unloaded on Barkley one more time before dashing out of the gym with one of his running buddies, Phillips said.

"Kentrell was in no way at fault here," Phillips said. "There was nothing he could have done differently - except took it easier on him."

Barkley's less-talented teams got several wins against the squads led by Hairston, Phillips said.

Phillips, 19 and a friend of Barkley, played basketball for Southern High School and said he attends Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina on an academic scholarship.

Barkley was doing his thing out there on the court, easily one of the best players in the gym, along with Hairston, Phillips said.

"Just playing basketball," Barkley said. "There was no junk talking or anything. We didn't argue. (The punch) was just out of nowhere."

This past season during the state's 4-A high school basketball playoffs, Buzz Peterson, UNC-Wilmington's coach at the time, was in Northern's gym when Apex High School beat the Knights. Barkley (6-5, 190) scored 18 points that night. He's also getting recruited by East Carolina, Murray State, Louisiana Tech and Cincinnati.

Filing charges against Hairston is not about getting paid by an NBA player or taking on Hornets owner Michael Jordan and the UNC Nation, both Phillips, a UNC fan, and Barkley said.

"It's not even like that," Barkley said. "I just want to know why he hit me."

Barkley goes to school at J.D. Clement Early College High School, an affiliate of Durham Public Schools that is housed on the campus of N.C. Central University. No sports are offered at Clement, which allows students to graduate with college credits.

Pressing charges against Hairston is about Barkley's name being cleared so his opportunities to play college ball aren't blocked, Phillips said.

Barkley: "I just want to do the right thing."

The teenager's coach has his eye on the situation.

"I'm concerned about how he's dealing with it emotionally, mentally and all that stuff," Russell said. "I hope it doesn't affect him. He's a great guy. He's a great leader."

Hairston left practice Monday without speaking to the media but through a statement released by the Hornets apologized to the franchise and its fans. He didn't mention Barkley.


July 9, 2014


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