Senior guard Leslie McDonald has always had a sixth-man mentality. In 100 career games at North Carolina, he has started only once. That could change for McDonald this year -- due in part to the potential suspension length of P.J. Hairston and partly because coach Roy Williams is still experimenting with different lineups.
Here’s where you’re reminded that McDonald scored a career-high 24 points last season when he made his lone start against UAB.
Williams has made a habit of starting a more defensive-minded player and having “instant offense” as a sixth man. That’s how Jackie Manuel started every game on the 2005 national championship team while Marvin Williams came off the bench. It’s also why Danny Green was a backup to Marcus Ginyard on the 2008 Final Four team.
McDonald and J.P. Tokoto are most likely to split time at small forward. Tokoto is a better defender. It should be noted that on the 2009 title team, Williams leaned toward starting Green ahead of Ginyard even before an injury that sidelined him that season. Williams could face a similar decision with McDonald and Tokoto.
McDonald said it really doesn’t matter to him whether he’s coming off the bench or on the floor from the opening tip. The key for the Memphis native in either case comes down to his pregame warmups.
“Just getting into the flow of shooting is key for me,” McDonald said. “Once you see your shot going in in pregame and you move around get a little sweat you kind of feel for that game and you see what you’re going to do beforehand.”
McDonald’s pregame routine turns into a game unto itself. If he makes many of his early shots, he knows he’s ready. He’ll slow down and play it conservatively the rest of his time in warmups. If he’s not making anything, he’ll move in to make higher-percentage shots to regain confidence.
“You know your body, I feel like players know their bodies, they know themselves,” McDonald said. “Once they have a good routine then they can chill out for a bit and save some for the game.”