|North Carolina guard McDonald cleared by NCAA|
|Wednesday, December 18, 2013 9:04 PM|
By AARON BEARD
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina finally got senior guard Leslie McDonald back in the lineup after he missed the first nine games because of NCAA eligibility issues.
The school is hoping to find out soon whether P.J. Hairston will get to join him.
The NCAA cleared McDonald on Wednesday afternoon and he returned to the lineup a few hours later to score 15 points in an 86-83 loss to Texas. After the game, athletic director Bubba Cunningham wrote in a statement the school was still working with the NCAA on Hairston's status and expected to have the matter resolved by the end of the week.
McDonald hit four 3-pointers in his return but went just 3-for-8 from the foul line in 22 minutes off the bench.
"I just went in and played my heart out," McDonald said. "Even though I was rusty or my shots wasn't falling, or I was turning the ball over, I'd try to do little things: rebound, dive for loose rebounds. Anything I could possibly do to help this team out, that's all I wanted to do."
The NCAA made the announcement about 4 hours before tipoff for the 14th-ranked Tar Heels (7-3) and Longhorns. McDonald must repay $1,783 to a charity of his choice after receiving improper benefits from "numerous individuals" during the spring and summer in the form of luxury cars, payment of parking tickets, a cellphone and lodging.
In a statement earlier in the day, coach Roy Williams wrote this "has been a terrible time for Leslie and his family and our basketball team.
"I was very disappointed by Leslie's actions and he knows this," Williams said. "He has suffered the consequences of his actions and I hope he has learned a lesson that I also hope his teammates recognize."
McDonald must repay the benefits to the charity before his last regular-season game.
Hairston, last year's leading scorer, was twice cited by authorities during the offseason for driving a rental vehicle linked to a felon and party promoter, Haydn Patrick "Fats" Thomas of Durham.
The school had not specifically identified McDonald's eligibility issues before Wednesday's announcement. But in its reinstatement letter to the NCAA, the school wrote McDonald drove a 2009 Porsche Cayenne registered to a woman who shared Thomas' home address. McDonald said he used the car for five days in late June and early July.
McDonald also occasionally drove two rental vehicles tied to Thomas as well as a third vehicle "associated" with Thomas, according to the reinstatement letter. The letter states McDonald shared access with another UNC student-athlete whose name is redacted, as well as Hairston's friend — Elizabeth City State player Miykael Faulcon, who has yet to play this season.
McDonald also was cited for receiving a designer mouth guard from a friend who works at a local oral surgery practice. McDonald made at least one post on social media about using the mouth guard, which led the school to send a letter over the summer to the manufacturer instructing it to remove McDonald as a listed client from its promotional website.
McDonald also received an improper benefit for staying at the home of a basketball camp director in Nags Head for three nights in July while working the camp, as well as for an iPhone 4 provided by Thomas. McDonald had said he paid $100 in cash for the phone, though the reinstatement letter states there are no records confirming the payment.
McDonald is a career reserve who averaged about seven points last year but was set to contend for a starting role.
When schools discover rules violations, they must declare the player ineligible and may ask the NCAA for reinstatement. The NCAA said UNC initially asked for McDonald's reinstatement on Dec. 11 and followed that with a complete request Tuesday.
The NCAA said those are the only reinstatement requests UNC has made.