<
>

Knee update No. 1: Leslie McDonald

CHAPEL HILL -- North Carolina junior Leslie McDonald looked pretty agile last week, hopping and bumping and grooving to the Tar Heels’ pre-exhibition-game “Jump Around” dance.

But despite the way he appears to be moving on his surgically repaired right knee, it’s going to be awhile before he ditches the street clothes.

Coach Roy Williams said he told the reserve shooting guard -- who averaged 7 points off the bench and was second on the team with 51 3-pointers last season -- that he wouldn’t even discuss a possible timetable until December.

And a return wouldn't come until well after that, if at all, this season.

“The normal ACL tear requires six months,’’ McDonald said his doctors told him. “For my instance, I tore my ACL and my meniscus, so it’s going to take longer, probably. So if I was to come back, it would be around ACC tournament play, around that time.

“But for right now, I really haven’t been thinking about that a whole lot -- I’ve been thinking about, ‘how is the team doing in practice,’ studying, getting in the weight room … and really doing my rehab as much as I can.”

McDonald, who was expected to help improve his top-ranked team’s outside shooting this season, injured the knee during a July summer league game. Sophomore Reggie Bullock -- coming off his own knee surgery -- and freshman P.J. Hairston will now be counted on even more to connect from outside off the bench.

Whether to return this season or redshirt could eventually be a tough choice, considering the Tar Heels are expected to contend for a national title.

Senior forward Tyler Zeller went through a similar thought process in 2008-09 -- breaking his wrist two games into the season, but ultimately opting to return for the final 13 games, adding depth to that national title team. He said McDonald’s eventual choice, like his, could be difficult.

“I think it comes down to personal preference,’’ Zeller said. “It’s one of those things, depending on the time [of year], how much of the season is left, and then what your role could be coming back. It is tough … I just would tell him … the biggest thing is to take time, don’t make a rash decision.”

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp