• 70°

College basketball: Hairston headed for new heights

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY —  No pun intended, Jamarius Hairston believes Lees-McRae College is the best place to elevate his game.

Lees-McRae is located in Banner Elk, N.C., 3,701 feet above sea level, the highest elevation of any college east of the Mississippi.

Folks who like to ski head up that way to Sugar Mountain.

But the hoopers like to call it Dunk Mountain. The Lees-McRae Bobcats and fiery coach Steve Hardin have taken that unique nickname, and they’ve run with it.

The 6-foot-4 Hairston, who had 10 offers when all was said and done, should fit right in. He picked Lees-McRae last week, which meant saying no to Livingstone, Shaw, Bluefield State, UVa-Wise, Auburn-Montgomery, Young Harris, Barton and Southern Wesleyan.

Southern Wesleyan, the 10th school to offer Hairston, and Barton are teams that compete with Lees-McRae in Division II Conference Carolinas.

“I want to make an impact, and Lees-McRae gives me the best chance to make a big difference for a program,” Hairston said.

This will be Hairston’s third stop since graduating from Carson High in 2018 after a stellar senior season that included 26 wins, co-player of the year honors in Rowan County and the MVP award for the Dale’s Sporting Goods Sam Moir Christmas Classic. Hairston scored 1,659 career points for coach Brian Perry’s Cougars, second-best total in school history.

He had to play mostly in the post for Carson, so he had just one offer out of high school — from Lander University. Things didn’t work out for him at Lander, but he rediscovered his mojo during a stellar 2019-20 campaign at Davidson County Community College where he led the Storm to a dynamic 31-1 season. He averaged 20.2 points with excellent shooting percentages (40-plus from 3; 80-plus from the foul line) and added 5.8 rebounds per game. He was an All-American.

DCCC head coach Matt Ridge said Hairston is the mostly highly recruited player he’s coached.

“One college offer out of high school, but 10 offers two years later coming out of junior college, so I’ve improved,” Hairston said. “I think I’m going to the school now where they value my game the most. Coach Hardin recruited me for a long time and he talked a lot to Coach Ridge. He came to see me play late in our season and offered me in January.”

Because of the recruiting limitations brought on by COVID-19 concerns, Hairston never got to visit the Lees-McRae campus, but he’s comfortable with his decision.

“I’ve been on a few vacations to the mountains,” he said. “I like it.”

Hardin’s system should be the ideal fit for Hairston, who is more of a runner than a grinder. Lees-McRae is uptempo, to say the least. The Bobcats averaged 92.2 points per game in 2019-20, sixth in Division II. The team wasn’t great, but it was good — 18-11 overall and 11-9 in Conference Carolinas.

“They’re fast-paced and like to score in transition, and that’s my game,” Hairston said. “I think they’re a program that will take advantage of my versatility. They’ll mix it up and play me in different positions.”

Hairston is primarily a 3-man, a small forward, but he shoots and handles well enough to play the 2 if the Bobcats want to go bigger and he could even play minutes at the 4 if they want to play small and really quick.

Hairston is a strong student and will major in business at Lees-McRae, but his career ambition is to play professional basketball overseas.

“I built up a lot of momentum this past season at DCCC,” Hairston said. “Now I’ve got to keep that momentum going for two seasons at Lees-McRae. They’ve had a lot of their guys go on to play ball overseas. That’s my goal.”

Comments

Local

Pedestrian hospitalized after being struck by police car

Local

Torch Run returns to Rowan streets, raises money for Special Olympics

Crime

Fish arcade company drops suit against Rowan County Sheriff’s Office

Crime

Man faces kidnapping, assault charges after woman escapes at Webb Road Flea Market

Local

Natoli promoted to assistant county manager, will retain human resources director title

Education

Attendance restriction lifted for RSS graduation ceremonies

Business

Rowan Chamber of Commerce will host in-person Power in Partnership on Thursday

Business

Rowan EDC will undergo name change, alter board requirements with updates to bylaws

Nation/World

Israel strikes Gaza tunnels as truce efforts remain elusive

Nation/World

Supreme Court to take up major abortion rights challenge

Nation/World

Biden boosting world vaccine sharing commitment to 80M doses

Crime

Man charged for stowing away on Norfolk Southern train, impeding railroad operations

Local

Group will protest treatment of Georgia woman during 2019 traffic stop

Crime

Man overdoses at Piedmont Correctional Institute

Crime

Sheriff’s Office: Two men escape from jail, found in bushes on Fulton Street

Ask Us

Ask Us: When will North Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue be resurfaced?

Local

Political Notebook: Rowan’s lawmakers pass 140 bills into the opposite chamber before deadline

Local

Police chief to present use of force policy; city manager to present 2021-22 budget

Crime

Blotter: Rockwell man arrested on charges of felony larceny, possession of stolen vehicle

Coronavirus

CDC director says mask turnaround based solely on science

News

Catawba College hosts three in-person commencement ceremonies

Local

With high case loads causing numerous staff departures, Child Protective Services seeks more positions

Education

Livingstone College graduates celebrate ‘crossing the finish line’ during commencement celebration

Coronavirus

Rowan sees 4 new COVID-19 deaths as mask mandate lifted, vaccines administered continue decline