"It was iffy," he continued. "I really personally wasn't sure what their decision was going to be. I really wasn't sure if they were actually going to put their names in the draft. When I found out I was like ‘wow.'"
The departure of Ellington means immediate playing time is there for the taking for McDonald and fellow incoming freshman Dexter Strickland.
"I think I'm ready," McDonald said. "With how hard I'm working now, I think I've improved big time. I think I can come into North Carolina and be a big impact to the team."
"I've been so excited and I've been working so hard in the gym to get ready for college," McDonald added. "Every time I think of college I get excited."
The Heels won't just lose Ellington. The core group that led the Tar Heels to their fifth NCAA title is headed out the door. Ty Lawson is off to the NBA, and they'll lose valuable seniors Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green and Bobby Frasor.
"With them leaving you lose experience on the team, but at the same time you are letting the newcomers come in and they'll gain experience and will get more playing time," McDonald said. "It can work both ways."
So what role will McDonald fill at North Carolina?
"I just see myself being, as Coach Williams says, a ‘basketball player,'" McDonald said. "He says I don't really have a position, but he sees me as a basketball player that shoots shots, gets rebounds, makes plays and just does it all. I think I can help the team out with that."
McDonald, who will arrive in Chapel Hill in mid-June, averaged 20.7 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game during his senior season. He also picked up his second consecutive Division 2-AA Mr. Basketball award.