Dec 15, 2012; Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels guard Leslie McDonald (2) lays the ball up over East Carolina Pirates guard Miguel Paul (0) during the second half at the Dean E. Smith Center. North Carolina won 93-87. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC Basketball: Leslie's Return Could Not Be More Timely

Leslie McDonald is scheduled to return to the lineup this weekend against the Virginia Tech Hokies in what the Tar Heels are hoping to be their fifth conference win. Leslie has missed the last six games for UNC, three with a tweaked knee and three due to a team suspension for academic reasons. The Tar Heels have had success winning games in his absence, but could always use his game experience and three point shooting ability when it’s available. And after PJ Hairston’s head injury during the Boston College game Tuesday night, UNC needs McDonald back in a big way.

In the games Leslie has played this season, he has shot 43% from three which is second behind Reggie Bullock on the team. Hairston has been hot of late from behind the arc and has poured in the points in bunches, but is still shooting around 39% from three meaning McDonald has a little bit better consistency. Obviously, we would love to have both players on the floor at the same time, but it is reassuring that we are reactivating a player with more three point efficiency to help fill the void of Hairston until he recovers. What PJ has over Leslie though, is that he can score in many different ways. PJ knows how to shoot as well as crash the boards and take the ball into the lane for scoring opportunities. Leslie has primarily been a spot up shooter and nothing more. Leslie will need to make sure that he works harder to create for himself a little bit more and add to his productivity because the Heels will certainly need it as they continue their trek through ACC play.

This post was originally going to be dedicated to how the rotations and minutes would be split up with Leslie coming back to a full roster, but it doesn’t look like much will change. We do not yet know how long Hairston is out, but the blow is certainly softened by McDonald’s return and no one should necessarily worry about being docked playing time in order to compensate for their teammate. Eventually, when Hairston returns, the minutes will have to be dispersed because both Leslie and PJ will need competitive minutes in order for this team to contend. We’ll analyze who takes a hit at a later dat, but for now we are just hoping for a full healthy lineup in the next couple of weeks.

We aren’t new to this whole concept of having to play not at full strength. It seems that every year, some player for the Heels has to miss an extended period of time due to injury or academic related issues. Fortunately, McDonald was only required to sit for six games and nothing more. We’ve already had to watch an entire season without McDonald and another one would be devasting at ths juncture because this team needs every weapon they have at their disposal. I hope Leslie comes out and contributes immediately because Carolina will need the point production especially if Hairston is out for the Miami and Duke games. Either way, we are glad to have him back.



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Tags: Leslie McDonald North Carolina Tar Heels PJ Hairston

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