Posted: 2/4/2012 8:49:22 AM
I heard several people tweet it over the course of the Duke-Virginia Tech game and I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I kind of thought about the same thing. Josh Hairston can be this team's Lance Thomas.
If you are a new fan or one that doesn't have a very long memory, then all should know and remember Lance. The lanky 6-foot-8 forward who was a late commit to Duke almost six years ago.
A lot of people had great expectations for him but after his junior season most though of him as Ms. Havisham than Pip. But something happened in his senior season in 2010.
Thomas discovered a role that most players with those kind of expectations may not accept. He became a role player, a rebound, set screens and play tough defense kind of guy. The kind of guy that players like Mitch McGary would rather not be, but the kind of a guy every team needs to win championships.
His leadership, also shown through on and off the court and he ended up being a major reason the Blue Devils went on to win the national title.
Fast forward to 2011-2012 and Josh Hairston. Hairston didn't have the kind of expectations coming into Duke, but people thought he could be an asset. So far most of his career has been defined by little playing time and having a passion for shooting, a lot.
During his freshman year I coined the nickname "Chucker" for Hairston, in reference to the Seinfeld episode where Keith Hernandez referred to George Costanza as a 'chucker" for shooting the ball everytime he touched it.
Hairston kind of did that as is often the case with a guy trying to prove himself and trying to make his mark when he got his chances to play.
This season has been a little bit more of the same, and though Hairston has shown the ability to knock down a 15-footer at times, that isn't necessarily what Duke wants from him on regular basis especially in tight games.
What Hairston has shown the ability to do is rebound, set screens, play defense and be vocal. Sounds familiar doesn't it.
If Hairston embraces the role defined by the likes of Brian Zoubek, and Lance Thomas, then Duke could really start to make strides not only for the remainder of this season but next season and beyond.
Hairston got a start against Virginia Tech and made the most of it with some solid hustle play. He ran the court and finished strong in transition. He finished with six points, three rebounds and a steal. Not a huge statistical line but a solid one that showed he made a positive contribution.
And if you watched the game you could see his energy and how his teammates fed off it. Now I'm not saying Hairston is as good and Thomas or that he will be a starter by season's end like Thomas. He may not even start in the next game against Miami on Sunday.
He isn't all that tall at about only 6-foot-6 or 6-foot-7 but he is strong and if he can play in control he can contribute.
Hairston plays with the type of energy that Mike Krzyzewski loves. He is intense and has become famous among Duke circles for his yelling after positive plays. That energy could really invigorate Duke if he can channel it and continue to post positive stat lines like the one against the Hokies.
He will struggle against teams with larger front courts but he is a body and a player who can contribute good minutes and be the kind of player Lance Thomas was for Duke. It may not be a national title team but it certainly can be a team that is better with him than without him.
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