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Flashback Friday: Rookie Malik Hairston makes NBA debut vs New Orleans Hornets

Nearly a decade ago, Oregon’s highest recruit in program history made his pro debut

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

In a week that saw Oregon’s Jordan Bell and Dillon Brooks both make their NBA debut, we look back at the highest recruited player in UO history amid his NBA rookie season.

Following his Duck career, Malik Hairston was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the second round of the 2008 NBA Draft. Hairston was the 18th selection of the second round and 48th overall pick.

Hairston actually played with my cousin (through marriage) Mitch Platt during his Oregon basketball career. Mitch and Hairston were freshmen during the 2003-04 season and graduated together four years later.

He was traded on June 28 to the San Antonio Spurs and Gregg Popovich in a deal that included current Miami point guard Goran Dragic.

That was a legendary draft that saw Derrick Rose go No. 1 overall to the Chicago Bulls. Oklahoma City chose Russell Westbrook with the fourth overall pick and his UCLA teammate Kevin Love was taken with the next pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves. Not to mention, Blake Griffin was considered a rookie that year after his ‘07 injury.

Detroit’s finest had to wait for his opportunity, however. Hairston did not make his professional debut with the Spurs until the year 2009. On January 31 of the 2008-09 season, the rookie was thrust onto the floor for one solid minute.

Hairston entered the game for Michael Finley with 1:08 left in the fourth quarter. 37 seconds later, he blocked the shot of former Kansas Jayhawk Julian Wright. It was the first statistic recorded during his career and he had to wait nearly four months for it.

NCAA Regional - Oregon v Florida
Maarty Leunen, Malik Hairston and Churchill Odia sit on the bench during their loss to the Florida Gators during the midwest regionals of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the Edward Jones Dome on March 25, 2007 in St. Louis, Missouri.
Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

His best game as a rookie came just four days later against the Denver Nuggets and Carmelo Anthony. On February 3, he went 6-of-8 from the floor for 12 points. Hairston added five boards, five fouls, two turnovers, a blocked shot and a steal in the loss.

Something about playing against the best elevated Hairston’s game. At the end of February, the former Duck amassed 11 points on 5-of-8 from the field against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had two dimes, a rebound and a block.

After scoring between 6-9 points in three of his next four games, Hairston never played again that season. Injuries were always an issue for the Detroit product. It plagued him at Oregon and cut his professional career short.

Regardless, Hairston averaged 10.3 MPG, 3.3 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.9 APG and 0.5 BPG in his rookie year. He spent the next few years in the D-League (now G-League) before finally being waived by the Spurs on July 29, 2010.

To this day, Hairston is still the highest ranked commit in Oregon basketball history. He didn’t have the NBA career he envisioned but Malik has nothing to hang his head about. You can’t move forward until you appreciate the past.

The Duck ‘Empire’ is just beginning, but it was former players like Hairston and Aaron Brooks who helped build the Duck name.

The next 21 days will be jam-packed with Oregon basketball prep, including player profiles, predictions, previews, interviews, breakdowns and a few history lessons. Every day, we will have something new as we count you down to the tip off of 2017.

Ready or not? We’re less than a month away from the 2017-18 season!

Stay tuned, if you want to; Twitter @TheQuackFiend Gram @eugene_levys_eyebrows