DURHAM, N.C.--- North Carolina veterans Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston, along with former Tar Heel star Rasheed Wallace, returned to action Tuesday night at the Greater N.C. Pro Am on the campus of North Carolina Central University.
Their team, named 'Sheridan Imperial,' got more of a game than they bargained for from a team called 'The Athlete's Foot' featuring former Wake Forest guard Gary Clark and a couple players from UNC-Greensboro, as the Tar Heels actually trailed a couple different times in the fourth quarter before going on to a 62-59 victory.
McDonald, wearing bright yellow shoes, got plenty of attention from the P.A. announcer for his choice of footwear, getting a loud, 'It's gotta be the shoes!' after most every made basket throughout the game.
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The UNC guys got off to a fast start, as Hairston scored the game's first five points on an inside basket and a three-pointer, and McDonald finished the first quarter with eight points by working his way to the basket and getting high percentage shots in the lane and running the floor.
Leading 19-10 after one quarter it looked like Sheridan Imperial was on its way to a lopsided blowout, but it didn't work out that way.
Behind a barrage of outside shots and easy lay-ins due to sloppy defense by Sheridan Imperial, The Athlete's Foot cut the score to 34-33 by halftime. Both Hairston and McDonald finished the half in double figures---McDonald with 14 and Hairston with 12.
The action intensified in the second half, as the players and the crowd showed that Tobacco Road basketball never sleeps---it just takes periodic breaks before firing itself up again.
Given the game's location in Durham---and the fact that incoming Duke freshmen Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon were playing in the following game---and there were plenty of Duke fans in attendance.
A couple of them began heckling the UNC guys pretty good, and after one particularly bad shot by Hairston early in the second half, things got interesting.
One of the Duke fans high in the stands yelled loudly, 'Airball!' while some others closer to the court really got on Hairston.
The UNC rising sophomore proceeded on the very next possession to steal the ball near the top of the key and go down for an uncontested dunk, making sure to look back at his hecklers and let him know he was responding.
Hairston then drew a charge---the second charge in as many games this summer we've seen Hairston take.
Needless to say, drawing charges isn't a highly common thing during summer-league ball, but Hairston not only took some again tonight, but he was also seen repeatedly diving on the floor and getting after it on both ends of the court.
Hairston responded quite a few more times in the second half to his trash-talking antagonists, nailing multiple three-pointers on his way to a game-high 30 points for Sheridan Imperial.
But it wouldn't mean an easy victory, as Clark and his teammates continued to keep the game close, tied at 46-46 heading into the fourth quarter despite a dozen third quarter points from Hairston.
In the fourth quarter things continued to get a little fiery, as Clark and McDonald had a brief exchange along the baseline after the two came close together going for the ball.
The game stayed neck-and-neck down the stretch, but Hairston saved another big play for when his team really needed it.
With Sheridan Imperial leading by just two points (56-54) in the final two minutes Hairston buried a key three-pointer from the left wing, giving his team the two-possession lead that they wouldn't relinquish.
That last outside shot pushed Hairston to 10 field goals and five three-balls for the evening.
In addition to their solid shooting both Hairston and McDonald did well at the free throw line, combining to connect on 11 free throws to help keep The Athlete's Foot at bay.
McDonald, Hairston, and Wallace's team, the defending regular season champions from a season ago at the Pro Am, improve to 2-0 in early play this summer with Tuesday's win.
Tar Heel Illustrated will be covering the Greater N.C. Pro Am all summer long, so stay tuned for more game updates, as well as interviews and game highlights, in the coming days.