North Carolina guard Leslie McDonald is officially eligible and will play against Texas Wednesday. It is hard to say whether he will have an immediate impact against the Longhorns, but the future looks bright for the Tar Heels even if the ineligible P.J. Hairston never takes to the court this season.
McDonald is the perimeter player North Carolina has been missing all season. Other than super-guard Marcus Paige, coach Roy Williams‘ Heels have only hit four of their 28 three-point field goal attempts this season. McDonald is coming off a season where he shot 36 percent from outside the arc.
Besides his ability to hit a reasonable number of perimeter jumpers, McDonald is also great with the ball and can give Paige and Nate Britt a break with ball-handling duties. McDonald is not a high-number assist player (1.2 APG last season), but he also does not turn the ball over and averaged less than one turnover per game last year.
McDonald helps just for the fact that he adds another body to the lineup. The Tar Heels are known for multiple substitutions and having one more player will give other players more rest. If McDonald can give Paige two to three more minutes of rest every game, imagine what that will do for the Tar Heels come the NCAA tournament.
While North Carolina has already picked up some big victories over Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, the Heels also have had losses to Belmont and the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Those two losses came because of inexperience and poor free throw shooting. UNC is only hitting 61 percent from the line, and McDonald — a senior — shot almost 80 percent from the stripe last season. Along with Paige, this gives North Carolina two players who can be counted on late in close games to shut the door down the stretch.
North Carolina was already becoming a very strong team before McDonald became eligible. Now with him back, the Tar Heels can win the ACC and very well be playing into April.