COP: Leslie McDonald Spotlight

FT. MYERS, Fla. --- Leslie McDonald has furthered his reputation as a strong second half player at the City of Palms Classic this weekend.

His team has been outmatched in its first two games, losing to national powerhouses Lincoln (N.Y.) and Duncanville (Texas), but McDonald has made a valiant second-half effort on the offensive end in both games.

Against Lincoln in the second half, he shot 6-of-7 for 16 points. The next morning against Duncanville, McDonald hit 5-of-9 for 14 second-half points.

"I told myself I had to step my game up," McDonald said of his scoring surges late in the games . "My team was down so I had to put a little spurt out."

"I'm the leader on my team and [if I] step it up, my teammates are going to step up," he added. "They see my example and they step their game up."

On the whole, McDonald's offensive game showed its inconsistencies, with turnovers against a tough defense and a jumper that looked good but didn't go down often enough. That jumpshot is an area of his game he's focused on improving since his summer with the USA Basketball National Team.

"After USA, I've been working a lot on my shot – midrange and outside -- getting ready for North Carolina," said McDonald, who signed with the Tar Heels last month. "Me and my dad – I don't know – he says I put up a 1,000 shots … we just go non-stop until the lights go out."

The hard work is beginning to pay off.

"This year I've seen myself make a lot of mid-range shots and threes," he said. "Now I'm more focused. Back when I was young I'd just shoot it and hope it'd go in, now I'm shooting the ball with more confidence and knowing it'll go in."

And while his offensive game hasn't been as consistent as he'd like thus far in this tournament, his coach attributes much of it to the challenges he's facing on the defensive end. McDonald excels as a defender because of his focus, smarts and athleticism. Against Lincoln, he made Lance Stephenson – the No. 1 ranked small forward in the junior class, who has a more than 20-pound weight advantage – miss the first six shots he took against him, until foul trouble interfered.

"I just wanted to show that I was contesting him," McDonald said of his game plan against Stephenson. "I wasn't trying to stop him, just trying to contain him and make him shoot bad shots. When he shoots, put an arm in his face, if he tries to go by me, get there quicker."

Just 10 hours later, McDonald was guarding the nation's No. 9-ranked small forward, Roger Franklin, who also had a decided size advantage.

"He's playing against the top players in the nation here and he's having to guard the top players in the nation," Briarcrest coach John Harrington said. "When he plays in his own state, sometimes he doesn't have to guard as good of a player and he can rest a little bit here or there – because he plays the whole game for us. This week he had to guard Lance Stephenson, Roger Franklin – so he's having to guard great players and is expected to get 20 points and 4-5 assists per game."

McDonald added, "My coaches say if you can't play defense, you're not going to be on the court."

He'll have a coach with a similar defensive philosophy when he arrives in Chapel Hill. McDonald is eager to begin his Tar Heel career and is closely following his future team this year.

"I'm watching their games every night," he said "I'm loving the games and hoping they keep blowing out people."

Leslie McDonald Profile

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