USA: Leslie McDonald Spotlight

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Leslie McDonald knows he'll be running plenty at North Carolina. But that didn't stop USA Basketball U18 coach Bob McKillop from issuing a friendly reminder following a fast break drill.

"Where you going to school next year?" McKillop asked.

"UNC," McDonald said between heavy breaths.

"You better get your [butt] down court."

Every once in a while here at the USA Trials, McKillop will make a reference to a player's future college—sometimes to get a rise out the group, sometimes to push an individual. Either way, McDonald doesn't mind.

"I love coaches that get on me," he said later in the day. "That makes me work harder. When a coach tells me what to do, I do it."

This event is a rare opportunity for McDonald and the 13 other finalists. Their coaches are three of college basketball's finest: McKillop, who orchestrated Davidson's run to the Elite 8 in March; John Thompson III, who revitalized Georgetown's program; and Virginia Commonwealth's Anthony Grant, one of the hottest young coaching prospects.

Not to mention the competition on the court, a mix of 2008's and 2009's best players, each committed to or considering top colleges.

"I played in the USA development league—that was in Colorado—but to get to come to D.C. and train with these guys is great," McDonald said.

The 6-foot-4 shooting guard has asserted himself as a backcourt threat, and seems likely to make the final roster of 12. He goes about his business quietly, and drew little criticism from the coaches the first three days. While he might not end up being the team's top scorer, McDonald is one of the best finishers around the basket.

He's also among the most reliable with the ball, similar to last year as a member of the USA Basketball Men's Youth Development Festival Red Team when he led all festival participants in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.50).

At Briarcrest Christian last year he averaged 21.5 points per game and was honored as Tennessee's Gatorade State Player of the Year. But on a team full of stars with high school statistics and honors like his, McDonald and the others are learning another important skill.

"They have to understand teamwork because they're going to be asked to play an entirely different role than what they do on their normal high school or summer league team," McKillop said.

And so far, so good. "This is the first time I've ever seen a camp where a lot of guys gel together," McDonald said. "This is a good environment."

For McDonald especially, McKillop's up-tempo system is beneficial. Like UNC's, it emphasizes secondary breaks and quick transitions from defense to offense. For the first couple of days, though, it meant turnovers and confusion.

"I think they're caught between running and being in control… You have to have balance between run and control and we don't have that," McKillop said.

McDonald, however, took to it quickly, drawing praise from the coaching staff.

"I think I did pretty good," McDonald said. "I know I made mistakes, everybody makes mistakes. But I think I capitalized on those mistakes."

He's also getting the opportunity to play with two of his future teammates at UNC —David and Travis Wear. They're not quite at the point of alley-oops and no-look passes, but the chemistry is coming along.

"It's pretty nice to have the opportunity to come out here and play with him," David said. "It's just trying to get a feel for each other's games and everything like that."

Though McKillop has shied away from using a player's future school as a measuring stick, where the three have committed is not lost on him. "You can see why they were recruited by North Carolina," he said. "Not only are they very talented, but they have a willingness to be coached."

Fittingly, McDonald hasn't had a problem running since McKillop's reminder.

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