A decision on the 2011-12 season is still up in the air though I am not entirely sure why.
Adam Lucas caught up with injured guard Leslie McDonald on the progress of his knee rehab. It is going well but there is still a long way to go.
McDonald's rehab has been productive. Just three weeks and five days after surgery--yes, he's counting--he's already walking without a brace. He measures progress in the assignments being given to him by trainer Chris Hirth and strength and conditioning coach Jonas Sahratian, and considers it a victory that he's already being allowed to do some limited upper body and leg work in addition to riding the stationary bike.
Still, he's many months away from transitioning from simply getting healthy to playing competitive Atlantic Coast Conference college basketball.
"The original timeframe for ACL repair is six months," McDonald says. "I had ACL and meniscus repair, which will take a little bit longer, like seven to eight months...The doctors say I'm doing well, but they want to take precautions because you can reinjure these things easily."
Doing the math on his rehab timeframe delivers a potential return date very late in the 2011-12 season. Right now, less than a month after the operation, it's still much too early to speculate about any sort of role for this year's team. Of course, McDonald has considered it. It's what he thought about every single day after the loss to Kentucky, during a summer spent focusing on improving his ball-handling and shooting in an effort to make himself into a more consistent player.
At this point I think McDonald playing in the 2011-12 season is a long shot. If everything goes as well as it possibly could and McDonald nails the shorter estimate on rehab that still doesn't make him available until the beginning of March. At most he would see action in two regular season games, the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Even then McDonald is looking at a very limited role. By the time March comes around, everyone will have an idea of their minutes and roles on the team not to mention, Roy Williams often trims minutes for reserves late in the season. It makes little sense to add another player in a position the Heels are already two deep on the wings. Contrast that to Tyler Zeller's return in 2009 on a team with limited frontcourt depth so his presence was useful although his minutes were very limited still.
Of course the ultimate decision will rest with McDonald and his family. That is how Roy rolls. Once the medical staff clears a player, Roy makes his opinion known then puts it to the player and his parents to make the ultimate decision. Regardless, I expect the final decision will be a redshirt which will help UNC going forward to get two more years from an experience shooter after half the team leaves in May, 2012.