Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mcdonald Forgets Troubles, Leads Heels with Big Night

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Mcdonald Forgets Troubles, Leads Heels with Big Night

Article excerpt

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Before Thursday night, people might have remembered Leslie McDonald's senior season at North Carolina for what happened off the court rather than on it. They might have recalled rental cars and an impermissible benefits case and a tumultuous time that dragged on through November and December.

There were times when McDonald, in his fifth season, wondered if he would play basketball again. He laughed at the people who made fun of him on Twitter, and he spent the first part of the season wearing a suit and tie, hoping for a chance.

McDonald, though, said he never envisioned something like this - a team-high 21 points during the Tar Heels' 74-66 victory against No. 5 Duke at the Smith Center on Thursday. While he spent time regretting mistakes and waiting for another chance, he never allowed his mind to drift too far ahead.

Even Thursday, he said he didn't daydream of ending his miserable shooting slump just when the Tar Heels most needed him. McDonald entered the Smith Center having made just two of his past 16 attempts from the field.

He walked off of the court, amid a throng of delirious students, after one of his best games at UNC. Without question, it had been his most memorable night.

"Honestly," McDonald said, "if you have told me earlier today I would have scored 21 points, I would have been laughing."

McDonald sat out the first nine games this season, suspended because of his involvement in an impermissible benefits scandal that cost his former teammate, P.J. Hairston, his collegiate eligibility. Amid the early-season drama, coach Roy Williams said McDonald's leadership role had been stripped away, and when the NCAA cleared McDonald to return during mid-December, he didn't enter the starting lineup.

His ascension into the starting five came later, after UNC lost its first three ACC games. The hope then was that McDonald, one of the team's only capable outside shooters, would provide the kind of perimeter offense the Tar Heels had been lacking.

It didn't work out that way. McDonald labored through one shooting slump before scoring 20 points in a victory against N.C. State late last month. …

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