After missing the first nine games of the season, the North Carolina Tar Heels finally have their deep threat back in the lineup. Senior guard Leslie McDonald was reinstated for the Tar Heels’ Dec. 18 matchup against the Texas Longhorns, and Chapel Hill could finally take a deep breathe. Although the Tar Heels will be without guard P.J. Hairston forever, having McDonald back is nothing short of a great consolation.
Since his freshman season in Tar Heel blue, McDonald has made a name for himself from three-point land. Unfortunately, this does not say much considering the perimeter has not been very friendly to the Tar Heel’s in previous years, but McDonald has done enough to help them succeed.
Throughout his collegiate career, McDonald has struggled with injuries, thus causing him to perform below his true abilities. He was forced to red shirt during what was supposed to be his junior season as a result of a torn ACL, and just to make matters worse, the NCAA suspended him indefinitely for receiving impermissible benefits. With Hairston already suspended, this was the last thing that any Tar Heel fan wanted to see happen.
Luckily for McDonald, he was reinstated by the NCAA after paying off all of the benefits that he had received. The 6-foot-5 shooting guard is now beginning his senior season coming off the bench, but is playing a significant amount of minutes. In his first game back against Texas, McDonald played 22 minutes, in which he scored 15 points, 12 of them coming from behind the arc. In the next game against the Davidson Wildcats, he played 30 minutes, and even though he only scored nine points, his presence on the court was a challenge for the Davidson defense.
Sophomore guard Marcus Paige has already proven that he can be the team’s superstar in the backcourt, and has also shown success from three-point range, in which he is shooting close to 40 percent. Now, with McDonald coming in off the bench, it will be very interesting to see how the Tar Heels’ shooting game improves as they near ACC play.
McDonald may be criticized for being injury-prone, receiving the impermissible benefits, or simply being inconsistent throughout his collegiate career, but if a team decides to underestimate him on the court, he will make them regret it. It may even be more beneficial to the Tar Heels for McDonald to chuck up three-pointers than to allow James Michael McAdoo to shoot free throws.
The season is still young, and although McDonald’s final season as a Tar Heel has already been cut short, it is very possible that he will be nothing short of spectacular as the team chases its 26th ACC title.