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Hairston earns Tribune-Review Player of the Year honors

| Sunday, March 30, 2003

Connellsville Area boys basketball coach Nick Bosnic has trumpeted the ability of James Hairston for two years. Now, the rest of western Pennsylvania is discovering how special Hairston is.

"Everywhere we go, I've noticed more and more people are coming out to watch him play," Bosnic said. "There's an excitement that's building around him, and when you watch him play, it's easy to see why."

Hairston, a 6-foot-3 guard-forward, blossomed during his junior season. He led all WPIAL Class AAAA scorers with a 26-point average, added 12.2 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 3.8 blocks per game, and helped mold the Falcons (24-4) into a WPIAL semifinalist for the first time since the 1991-92 season. He'll have his senior season to pad his school-record 1,439 points.

"He has great athletic ability and scores his share of points, but what I notice most about him is that he's a very unselfish player," said Uniontown Area coach Rob Kezmarsky, whose team split two games with Connellsville this season. "He's so explosive, but he never looks like he's forcing anything. The game comes naturally to him."

Hairston's lanky frame, long arms and jumping ability make him dangerous in the paint, but he also possesses superior passing skills and is a skilled defensive player.

"He's clearly among the elite of western Pennsylvania," said Joe Dunn, coach of Trinity, Connellsville's Section 2-AAAA rival. "His game has clearly improved, and he can beat you in a variety of ways.

"Do you know what it's like to defend him• If you put a big guard on him, he'll see his back as he goes flying by. If you try to match up a bigger forward on him, he'll be looking at the bottom of his feet as he jumps over everybody."

Bosnic is trying to persuade Hairston to pack some muscle onto his 170-pound frame, which will make him stronger (of course) and more attractive to colleges (definitely).

"I think he can play at a major-college level, like the Big 10 or the ACC," said Bosnic, who played college basketball at Maryland and Duquesne. "I consider him to be a player like (Pitt's) Julius Page, only with more offense. And, with his work ethic, he's on a quest to make himself better.

"Just wait until next year. You haven't seen anything yet."

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