The first signs of trouble in the P.J. Hairston saga could be summed up with a few basic facts: Hairston was driving a rental car without a license when he was stopped at a traffic checkpoint. Police arrested him and two passengers for marijuana possession and found a 9mm handgun with nine rounds of ammunition lying outside the vehicle. Hairston was bound to face some sort of punishment, perhaps severe enough to cut into his junior season, but the initial impression was more along the lines that Hairston had made a mistake (or mistakes) with two of his friends. Punitive consequences were in order.
Over the past few weeks, the case has evolved into something more complex. First it was uncovering whether Rodney Blackstock, a registered NBA agent who reportedly tried to gain influence over former Kansas guard Ben McLemore by offering money and all-expenses paid trips to McLemore’s AAU coach, was in any way connected to Hairston, and whether he may have helped pay for the rented 2013 GMC Yukon Hairston was driving at the time of his arrest. UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham acknowledged last month that the NCAA is investigating potential impermissible relations between Blackstock and Hairston or any other UNC athletes.
The Blackstock tie-in was compelling, and the NCAA may eventually deem his connections with Hairston or other athletes reprehensible enough to hand down punishment. But the more pressing issue for North Carolina’s leading scorer surfaced over the weekend when USA Today linked the renter of the GMC Hairston and his friends were arrested in to a different rental car Hairston was reportedly driving less than a month prior.
The rental car in the arrest reportedly belonged to Haydn “Fats” Thomas, a convicted felon who previously said he did not know Hairston, but did know one of his passengers, Miykael Faulcon. The other rental car was leased by Catinia Farrington, who reports connected to Thomas residential address. A speeding ticket issued to Hairston on May 13, combined with information gleaned from rental car receipts, confirmed Hairston was driving a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS with license plates matching Farrington’s vehicle.
The possible non-involvement of Blackstock is a relieving development for Hairston, but it doesn't gloss over Fats Thomas' brushes with the law. According to a report from the Raleigh News and Observer, Thomas has four aliases, numerous arrests in different counties and multiple criminal charges related to guns and drugs. Thomas denied having any sort of relationship with Hairston, but did admit to knowing Faulcon, a friend and passenger of Hairston’s at his June arrest, as well as other UNC athletes, whom he claimed to have met at parties he hosted. Thomas, who said he has not been approached by the NCAA or UNC officials, also told the News & Observer about “business ties” to an adjunct professor at UNC’s School of Dentistry, Spencer B. Howard.
There is a lot of information to digest, but the biggest inconsistency in light of recent reports is Thomas’ assertion to the News & Observer that he did not know Hairston –- which runs counter to the logic suggesting Hairston did indeed know the renters of the two vehicles he drove (i.e. Thomas). This case is far from closed, and there a lot of evidence implying Hairston’s upcoming season could be hanging in the balance. But whether it is the NCAA, the legal system or Roy Williams himself who ultimately doles out punishment still remains to be seen.