It’s difficult not to notice that as Leslie McDonald has gone of late, so have the Tar Heels.
McDonald, who returned to the lineup on Dec. 18 vs. Texas after missing the first nine games of the regular season for receiving impermissible benefits, had a solid game vs. the Longhorns with 15 points.
Like his teammates, however, McDonald struggled through a 3-of-8 effort at the free throw line in the 86-83 loss to the Longhorns. The Tar Heels were a dismal 24 of 47 at the charity stripe.
He went on to play fairly well in the next three games, netting a total of 34 points in wins over Davidson, Northern Kentucky and UNC-Wilmington. McDonald hit a respectable 11 of 23 field goal attempts, including 5 of 12 trey attempts.
McDonald has slumped severely in his last three tilts, though, failing to reach double-figure scoring in ACC setbacks to Wake Forest, Miami and No. 2 Syracuse.
He totaled just 19 points in all while hitting just 7 of 30 field goals. McDonald hasn’t stopped launching three-pointers, but hit just 3 of 17 attempts.
McDonald recently said he won’t be afraid to shoot, however, despite his struggles.
“You’ve got to keep looking forward and keep being aggressive. That’s the one thing. If your shot is not falling or you’re not very confident, keep being aggressive. As a team, we need to do that,” McDonald said.
McDonald, the lone scholarship senior on this season’s North Carolina roster, averaged 7.2 points and 2.1 rebounds in a reserve role in 2012-13. He was suspended for three games during his junior campaign for academic reasons.
McDonald seemed contrite about his actions for the most recent ban, but was excited about his return.
“I feel blessed to play again for Carolina,” McDonald said in a UNC release at the time. “I truly regret putting my family, UNC and my teammates and coaches through this. I apologize to everyone who cares about the University of North Carolina and will do what I can to make up for it. You never know how much you love to play the game until you are not allowed to…”
Although head coach Roy Williams lost P.J. Hairston for the season in a similar matter when the program didn’t seek his reinstatement, he was pleased to have the talented McDonald return.
“Leslie has been a sensational teammate and worked hard in practice to help our team. He understands what he has already lost and wants to really enjoy this second chance. Leslie has one more semester to contribute to our team and finish his degree. I feel sure he will be truly dedicated to accomplishing both of those goals.”
The Tar Heels will need more from McDonald and his teammates as they take on Boston College Saturday afternoon at the Smith Center and hit the road for Monday’s tilt at Virginia. UNC returns home the following Sunday for a matchup vs. Clemson.