UNC's Leslie McDonald is among the headliners coming to Pender High School on Thursday with the ACC Barnstorming Tour. The fifth-year guard was suspended for the first nine games of the season but returned to average 10.4 points per game for the Tar Heels, who fell to Iowa State in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Staff writer Eric Detweiler caught up with McDonald to discuss the tour and look back on his college career. For more with Leslie, head online for the full interview at http://www.StarNewsOnline.com:
Leslie McDonald Q&A
Q:This tour isn't something you have to do. Why did you want to get involved with it?
A:"It's a great chance to play with certain guys you've been playing with for four or five years. Just being able to give back to the community. You have a lot of fans that aren't able to get tickets to games at Duke and North Carolina and Wake Forest. We have the opportunity to go to certain hometowns and give them the chance to see us up close. It's awesome. Plus, it's been going on for 30-plus years. Being able to have the opportunity to play in something that Tyler Hansbrough played in and Nolan Smith and Danny Green. It's an honor."
Q:Did you talk to some of those guys who have done it before? What did they tell you about what to expect?
A:"I've talked to different guys that have played in it before, but I've also heard about it. Just hearing about it from different people, it sounds unbelievable. I heard it's fun. You get a chance to meet new people, play together for one game. In the season, you're so focused on playing against each other. Just getting an opportunity to play alongside a rival is kind of fun and intriguing."
Q:Fans won't necessarily recognize all the names on the roster. There's quite a few end-of-the-bench type guys who are playing. You think they are ready for the spotlight?
A:"I would believe so. Speaking on behalf of some of my teammates as far as Denzel Robinson, Wade Moody and James Manor. I see these guys all the time in practice and not a lot of people understand their skills. They're not able to get into the game as much, but playing against them all the time, they're really good guys. Those three can shoot the ball incredibly well. They have the makeup that helped us get better every day in practice. It's going to be fun to see them actually get a lot of playing time in this type of game."
Q:You'll be coached by UNC legend Phil Ford. How well do you know him?
A:"Of course, he's a big Hall of Famer here, a big part of Carolina history. It's going to be fun just being around him. I've talked to him before, and he's an awesome guy, incredible. You can just tell he's full of entertainment and enjoyment for ACC basketball. I'm ready to play for him."
Q:Is there one stop that has you most excited for one reason or another?
A:"I really enjoy a lot of places. I really haven't made my mind out yet. I'm excited to get started in Virginia on Wednesday. I have a couple of friends in Virginia that are coming up. And I have a couple of people in New Bern, so that should be fun."
Q:It was a different year for you for a few different reasons. Now it's been over for a few weeks, how do you think you're going to look back on your senior season?
A:"It's been a blessing for me. I went through some ups and downs, but with those ups and downs, I've gained so much experience and maturity. It's been a blessing to finish out my year pretty strong. Although I wanted to win the championship, we still was able to turn the season back around and get some of our goals accomplished. It was an awesome season. It was an awesome time at UNC. I couldn't be anymore thankful. I'm glad I met the people that I've met and had the different experiences that I've enjoyed in my UNC career."
Q:You were a Tar Heel for a long time. Are you glad you stayed five years and got the full college experience?
A:"I really am. That was something I really enjoyed. You had a lot of guys as far as my teammates that have gone to the next level in the NBA. For me, I took a different journey and was able to stay five years here. I've seen a whole bunch. I'm working toward my degree, graduating in May. I've seen teammates come and go. My journey has been different from some of my teammates, but I wouldn't change anything. It's been an awesome experience."
Q:What do you know now that you wish you knew five years ago about playing college basketball?
A:"My freshmen year the game was so much different than high school. Of course, you have some high school players that are just born to play the college game. They can react to the college lifestyle. Sometimes it takes some time to get used to it. For me, it took some time to get used to it. Living by myself. Learning things faster. You just understand that there are other athletes that are as talented as you, and you have to separate yourself. If I had known that a long time ago, I think I would have prepared myself a little more coming into freshman year, but that's all freshmen."
Q:That is a hot-button issue: Should guys have to go to college and how long they should have to stay? As a guy who used five years, do you have a feeling on what that rule should be?
A:"That's a hard discussion and topic. For me, I felt like college not only prepared me for the next level basketball-wise but also maturity in life. I think college has helped me mature in life and understanding the different components in life. That's a hard topic. You have some guys that are just ready for the next level, your Kobes and LeBrons. For me, it wouldn't hurt to go to college. I really can't choose a side. For me, I enjoyed my college experience and it helped me a lot."
Q:What is next for you after the tour?
A:"I'll get my degree and go from there. Hopefully, I'm able to narrow down my picks with agents and get a good agent and see if I can get a couple workouts in. Mainly doing a whole bunch of training to see where I go for the next level, whether that's in the states or overseas. I'm just waiting to see."