Season Analysis: Leslie McDonald
Season stats: 2.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg
Per-40 minute stats: 16.2 P, 4.7 R
Season in a sentence: A late-season shooting slump dimmed what otherwise would have been a very successful return from an ACL injury for Leslie McDonald.
Season highlights: McDonald's first highlight was just being a part of the regular rotation. Coming back from an ACL tear has become somewhat routine, but it's still a long, difficult rehab process.
The junior was on fire against Mississippi State in Maui, knocking in 7 of 12 shots, hitting six of nine from three-point range, and scoring 21 points in 19 minutes. After the loss to Butler, he contributed 17 points against Chaminade, and hit 10 of 19 three-pointers overall in the Maui Invitational.
McDonald torched UAB for a career-high 24 points and added a career-high five assists. He also had 14 points and five rebounds against East Tennessee State. As ACC play approached, it looked like McDonald was going to be one of Carolina's key reserves, and maybe even one of the best bench sparkplugs in the league.
But McDonald's season was derailed when he tweaked his knee and had to miss three games, and then followed that up with a three-game suspension. That stretch cost him six ACC games.
His final 16 games were less consistent than the results he had shown before the injury. He shot at least 50 percent from the floor in just three of the final 16 games, and shot just 29.9% overall in those 16 contests. His best outing over that stretch was a 15-point performance in Carolina's win at Georgia Tech, when he hit five of eight field goals and four of six three-pointers.
Against the ACC: McDonald shot just 31.5% against the league, down significantly from his nonconference numbers. His three-point percentage dipped to 26.7%.
Although he's mostly known as a scorer, some of McDonald's best ACC games came when he coupled quality shooting with solid defense, as he did in the home win over NC State and the road victory in Atlanta. Against Virginia Tech, McDonald guarded the nation's leading scorer, Erick Green, and allowed just one field goal in 19 halfcourt possessions.
McDonald's per-40 minute averages against ACC opponents were 13.1 points and 4.4 rebounds.
Postseason: McDonald struggled in the ACC Tournament, shooting 5-of-19 from the field and 4-of-13 from the three-point line. He did make a career-high six free throws (out of six attempts) against Maryland in the semifinals, and also made a big three-pointer against the Terps late in the second half. The 21 minutes he played against Maryland were the second-most that he played after returning from the suspension.
The Memphis native was 2-of-8 in the NCAA Tournament.
Areas of improvement: If McDonald could be the same player he was in the first 14 games of the season, he would be a valuable player in the Tar Heel rotation. He shot 40.2% from the floor in those games and 36.8% from the three-point line.
The best way to be that type of player: be more consistent in big games. McDonald shot just 31.9% in ten games against NCAA Tournament teams last year, a figure that includes 27.3% from the three-point line. Six of his seven double-digit scoring performances came against teams that did not make the NCAA Tournament.
One reason Carolina needs McDonald in the rotation: he's one of the best free throw shooters on the team. He hit 79.5% from the charity stripe last year. He made 20 of his final 23 free throws during the season.
Season stats: 58.8%: The number of McDonald's field goal attempts that were from beyond the three-point line as a junior.
10: Number of three-pointers McDonald made in a three-game stretch in Maui.
8: Number of three-pointers McDonald made in Carolina's final 10 games of the season.
Adam Lucas is a GoHeels columnist and the editor of CAROLINA.