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Thursday, January 5, 2012
Hoopsbag: North Carolina edition

By Robbi Pickeral

Each week, I’ll try to answer your queries, comments, raves and rants about North Carolina hoops. Send your interrogatives by visiting this page. You can also email me at bylinerp@gmail.com or contact me via Twitter at @bylinerp.

As usual, I’ll answer the first question via video. Read below for more. And if I didn’t get to your question today, there's always next Thursday. Or the Thursday after that. Keep them coming ...

@ran_d_zim via Twitter: My ? Is... will Leslie McDonald play this year, and if so, when? And how would it affect the rotation?

Pickeral: You’ve probably seen this by now, but UNC coach Roy Williams said Tuesday that McDonald, who underwent reconstructive surgery on his right knee in August, was released last week to do more in practice. He still wasn't full-go, but Williams hopes the school can make an announcement in the next couple of weeks about the junior's status.

Judging by similar past injury situations, Williams will eventually meet with McDonald and his family about whether to return or redshirt this season. If he is healthy enough to contribute, it will be the family’s decision.

In 2009, forward Tyler Zeller (then a freshman) ultimately decided to return from a broken wrist and played in the final 13 games en route to UNC’s national title. He has said he made the decision to return because he knew he could contribute. The same season, then-senior Marcus Ginyard opted to redshirt rather than play on a foot injury; the next season, he returned to a team that lost 17 games.

If McDonald, who averaged 7.0 points off the bench last season, does opt to return, he would add another perimeter threat to a team that has legitimate title hopes. And it might be difficult to turn down such an opportunity; after all, you never know when you’ll get a chance to possibly play for an NCAA championship again. (See the Ginyard example in the previous paragraph.)

At the same time, it's unclear how many minutes McDonald would play in a rotation that also features reserve sharpshooters Reggie Bullock (9.3 ppg, 18.1 mpg) and P.J. Hairston (8.3 ppg, 12.9 mpg).


Ron from Wilmington, N.C.: If you had to pick one, do you go with Ed Cota, Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson or Kendall Marshall as your PG?????

Pickeral: Aaargh. This one's a toughie. But ...

If I’m starting a team from scratch, and get to pick my point guard first, I’d go with Felton. Not only can he push the pace, assist and score -- he’s got that cut-throat, win-or-hurt-you-trying competitive personality that feeds a team as much as buckets and assists. That’s not knocking the others; I’d like to take all four of them, throw in a big guy or two, and see what would happen.

Who would you take?


Rosemary from Raleigh, N.C.: I am really worried about my Heels. They don't appear to have a real leader -- someone who can fire them up or calm them down. Usually it is the point guard but I'm not seeing that from Marshall. If not Marshall, is there another player on the team who can become the leader?

Pickeral: Rosemary, I think you’ve got to give Kendall Marshall a bit more credit. He may not be a screamer on the court, but he’s a guy his teammates tend to look to when times get tough. Remember last season, when Larry Drew II transferred? Marshall was only a freshman, but the Tar Heels rallied around him.

Other players provide leadership in other ways: Seniors Justin Watts and Tyler Zeller are vocal leaders in the locker room; sophomore Harrison Barnes sets an example with his work ethic, and is a go-to guy when the game is on the line.

Is there an obvious, outwardly vocal, leader on this team, like a Ginyard or a David Noel? No. Would I like to see one? Yes. But also remember: the leadership question came up a lot, too, during the 2009 championship season, when Ginyard -- the acknowledged vocal leader of that team -- got hurt and ended up redshirting the season. Forward Tyler Hansbrough and Lawson took over the role in deed more than in word, and that team ended up doing more than OK.