DURHAM--- Leslie McDonald didn't get his 20 points in Tuesday night's game at the Greater N.C. Pro Am the way some might have expected, as the UNC rising junior didn't make a single three-pointer all night.
But what he did do was successfully drive to the basket time and again, creating high-percentage opportunities for himself, while also making six free throws. When it was all said and done, McDonald and P.J. Hairston had combined for 50 points in their team's narrow three-point victory.
"It's good (to get the win)," McDonald told us immediately afterwards. "I didn't shoot too many jumpers, (but I) got to the basket a lot and had a little post-up game. I'm going to have to do that sometime. There are going to be smaller guards on me, so that was a good atmosphere and good chance for me to work on my post-up game and attacking the basket strong and making and-one plays."
McDonald admitted to us that he feels truly back to his old self again, and he pointed out a specific moment earlier this summer when it hit him that he was 100 percent.
"It was a little over a month ago. That's when I really found out I was really 100 percent," he said. "I was able to go up for a dunk and cut a certain way, and you know, I had my quickness back. So that's when I really looked at myself and said, 'I'm 100 percent back.' It feels good."
"Last year I was sitting on the bench the whole time watching other people play, and now they get to watch me play. So it feels good," McDonald added.
While there are some specific elements of McDonald's game that he's trying to improve this summer, such as driving to the basket and posting smaller defenders up, he is also trying to just have fun playing alongside Hairston and Rasheed Wallace, among others.
"(You) have fun (during the summer). You work on your game. The first game I was mainly shooting the ball. This game I was mainly attacking the basket and trying to get rebounds," he said. "I had a little guy on me, so like I said, I was posting up. But this type of environment and this event helps you to work on other aspects of your game you can't do in practice."
Things got a little hairy at times Tuesday night for McDonald and his mates, as they actually allowed their opponents to tie the game and take the lead multiple times in the second half, but they stayed poised and regrouped down the stretch---with some motivation thrown in by Wallace, the former NBA All-Star and world champion.
"In the beginning of the game, you don't know how the game is. Once the game got tied up, I thought to myself, 'It's time out for shooting shots. Let's get to the basket. Let's get fouls and let's get to the line and make points.'"
"Rasheed has played this game so long. He's been on our level and beyond, so I'm going to listen to him. He has valuable information for you, so if he tells you to do this, then you do it. And if you don't, then that's your choice because that's excellent---that's excellent---advice from him always," McDonald added.
Along with playing in the Pro Am and continuing to rehabilitate his knee, a big part of this summer for McDonald is getting to know and getting familiar with his new teammates, which is being aided by the addition contact they can have with the UNC coaches per the new NCAA rules this year regarding summer contact.
"It's been good. I really like this new NCAA rule allowing the players to affiliate with the coaches in practice a little bit. It's helping the freshmen come along, and get that glue that we need to come together. But I really like it, because we're practicing all of the time."
McDonald has been impressed with the athleticism of the freshmen so far in their short time in Chapel Hill, and he believes that the strength and conditioning program will push them into becoming even more promising players.
"They (the new rookies) are good athletes. Great. And with the help of Jonas (Sahratian), our strength and conditioning coach, and listening to Coach (Roy Williams, I think they're going to be big-time players. Once Jonas gets ahold of them, they'll be at another level."
Stay tuned for more Greater N.C. Pro Am coverage all summer here at Tar Heel Illustrated.