"He's not a flashy player so he reminds you of Tim Duncan," Battle Creek (Mich.) Central head coach Gary Williams told BuckeyeSports.com. "He's that kind of style."
That is a lofty comparison for a three-star center prospect who until this summer held a handful of scholarship offers from the likes of Oakland and Western Michigan. It was not until an appearance at the LeBron James Skills Academy that the likes of Ohio State, Connecticut and others stepped to the plate with scholarship offers.
Listed at 6-9, 230 pounds, McDonald will bring a skilled game to Columbus next season.
"Right now he shoots the ball exceptionally well from about 18 feet," his coach said. "That's something he's able to do on the screen and roll. His left hook shots are his go-to moves and we're working counters off of that. (It's) just tremendous how he works in our skill development. He will remind you (of Duncan) at first sight with some of the things he does."
McDonald said he had not heard such comparisons but that he sees similarities in the way each can use jump-hooks and utilize the backboard. Rated the nation's No. 23 center prospect, McDonald issued his verbal commitment to the Buckeyes on Sunday evening.
The big man said he was sold after taking an official visit to campus during the weekend of Oct. 2.
"I was just comfortable with the campus and the coaches," he said. "I think I'll have an opportunity down there to play and it's a good school that has my parents' approval."
Williams described McDonald as a late bloomer. After initially avoiding the sport by playing bass drum in the school band, he was hand-picked by his coach to begin playing varsity as a freshman.
He did not closely resemble the player he is now, however.
"When I first started with him as a freshman, he couldn't jump rope, he couldn't throw the ball off the backboard and catch it," the coach said. "He has made himself into an outstanding athlete. The people that are going to watch him play this year in Battle Creek are going to be amazed."
As a freshman, McDonald had the advantage of getting to go up against Jason Washburn, a 7-foot center who now suits up for Utah.
McDonald's growth has been an ongoing process, and Williams credited his desire to put in long hours at the gym for his success.
"I just had to put a lot more work in and listen more," McDonald said. "I put a lot of hours into the gym and go at it."
As a junior, McDonald had the chance to commit early but opted to keep his options open. Things really started to heat up during his performance at the James camp. As Williams said, the experience could have gone one way or the other.
"Everybody there is good and the skill-set is there," the coach said. "I think that's when the light started coming on. Those things can go one of two ways – you can get there and be overwhelmed but he got there and saw that he could play with those guys. He understood he had to pick his game up to another level."
Said McDonald: "It was a good camp. I used most of the stuff I had learned at other camps and from my coaches and put it all to good use. It was definitely exciting. It was just fun. You get to meet a lot of new people and have some new opportunities."
He also plays AAU ball with four-star center prospect Amir Williams, who is still considering the Buckeyes. Asked if his commitment will have an impact on his teammate, McDonald said, "He's going to do what he feels is best for him. We didn't talk about it but it would be fun if we play together in college."
"I know it's a cliché, but with him the sky is the limit," the coach said. "He just wants to be good. I think that's going to benefit him well this year and then also in the time he spends at Ohio State. I'm just excited about watching his development after we get done with him this season."