Veteran On The Hill

Veteran On The Hill

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Leslie McDonald returns as the lone senior on the 2013-14 North Carolina basketball roster with full intention of claiming a starting spot.

There were only two seniors on the team during McDonald's freshman campaign in 2009-10 – Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson – and the chemistry issues emerging from that squad have lingered as talking points in the years since.

"We did have some obstacles during that time," McDonald said on Tuesday. "I do everything I can to prevent those obstacles. I've seen a lot of things and I've tried to correct them and just [instill] in our team that we all have one goal and that's to win the national championship."

The Memphis, Tenn. native, who has played in 100 career games with only one start, is striving to lead his teammates by example, such as hitting the gym every day and doing the right things off the court.

McDonald appears to be in prime position for a starting role on the wing, but that wasn't necessarily the case when the offseason began. Teammates Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston debated turning pro in the weeks following UNC's third-round loss to Kansas in the NCAA Tournament. Bullock made the jump while Hairston elected to return for his junior season.

Adding more intrigue into McDonald's possible role was UNC's recruitment of Andrew Wiggins, the nation's No. 1 overall high school prospect.

McDonald told reporters that the various scenarios were out of his hands, so his only option was to improve his game to help make the team better regardless of what his role would ultimately be.

Regarding Wiggins' decision to sign with Kansas, McDonald offered a lighthearted jab at the Canada product.

"We all probably wish that he was a part of our team, but if he chose Kansas, that's his decision," McDonald said. "I hate it for him because if we do meet up with Kansas, then we'll have to put a whopping on him."

His personal focus this offseason has been more on improving his health more so than his skill, although his defensive capabilities continue to be a work in progress.

"For me, it's getting my body right," McDonald said. "I've been in the weight room with Jonas [Sahratian] getting stronger and working on my conditioning. I know my shot is pretty good and I've been working on that since I came here, so I'm not too worried about my shot. I'm just worried about fatigue and getting my body right so that we can get ready for the season."

Roy Williams, however, stressed to McDonald during his postseason individual meeting the need to become a more efficient shooter. In other words, understanding the difference in a good shot and bad shot.

The fifth-year senior averaged a career-high 7.2 points per game last season, but shot a higher percentage from 3-point range (35.9) than from the floor (35.7).

Williams also emphasized McDonald improving his ability to get his teammates more involved.

"I understand that I can get shots and make shots, but being able to create for my teammates is a key for me," McDonald said. "I don't want to be that player that if you lock him down, then you lock the whole team down. I want to be able to set a screen for my big men and set a screen for my point guard to get them open so they can knock down shots or drive in the lane."

McDonald has been a longtime participant in the N.C. Pro-Am, but he's unsure how much he will play this summer, if at all. If he does elect to play, it could be on a reduced weekly schedule.

 

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