Leslie McDonald reinstated by NCAA

Updated: December 20, 2013, 1:19 PM ET
By C.L. Brown | ESPN.com

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina senior Leslie McDonald was cleared to play by the NCAA on Wednesday, and the Tar Heels guard returned to the lineup against Texas after missing the first nine games of the regular season for receiving impermissible benefits.

In making the announcement, the NCAA also said it has not yet received a reinstatement request concerning junior guard P.J. Hairston.

According to the NCAA's statement, North Carolina discovered McDonald's violations on Oct. 24 and submitted a reinstatement request on Dec. 11.

McDonald must pay restitution of $1,783 to a charity of his choice after the school and the NCAA concluded he accepted "the use of luxury cars, payment of parking tickets, a cellphone and lodging" during the spring and summer of 2013. The total must be paid in full before North Carolina's regular-season finale March 8 at Duke.

"We are certainly glad to have this issue resolved for Leslie," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said in a statement. "It has been a terrible time for Leslie and his family and our basketball team. I was very disappointed by Leslie's actions, and he knows this. He has suffered the consequences of his actions, and I hope he has learned a lesson that I also hope his teammates recognize."

McDonald, a fifth-year player, is the lone scholarship senior on Williams' roster. He averaged 7.2 points per game last season. McDonald scored 15 points in the Tar Heels' 86-83 loss to Texas on Wednesday night.

Hairston's potential violations came to light in the spring after a traffic stop turned up information indicating he had used premium rental cars paid for by third parties. Hairston averaged a team-leading 14.6 points per game last season.

After the loss to Texas, Williams declined to take questions about Hairston's status or whether the school would submit a reinstatement request on his behalf. North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham did issue a short statement.

"The University of North Carolina is working with P.J. Hairston and his family to settle a few unresolved issues that remain," the statement read. "We expect to have this matter resolved at the end of this week."

[+] EnlargeLeslie McDonald, P.J. Hairston
Liz Condo/USA TODAY SportsLeslie McDonald, left, was in the Tar Heels' lineup Wednesday night, but P.J. Hairston remains in limbo.

McDonald called Wednesday night "bittersweet" because Hairston wasn't also declared eligible to play.

"It's a hard deal being able to be strong in front of the camera because it hurts deep down inside that you can't be out there with your family -- that's what we call it -- my brothers, out there giving their all," McDonald said. "Just to be back I was overjoyed."

McDonald and Hairston leaned on each other for support while they were sidelined. McDonald said they tried to stay focused on things they could control, like practice.

"All we can do is talk to each other, do the normal things, be as casual as we can," McDonald said. "That really matters. If you try to do the extraordinary, that's not really being genuine. We just like to be us. I think that's what carried us on and kept our spirits up."

Both players participated in practice while ineligible.

Oregon players Dominic Artis and Ben Carter have also missed time under similar circumstances. In November, the two received nine-game suspensions and were ordered to pay back $1,800 each for selling sneakers provided by the school.

C.L. Brown | email

College Basketball

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