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Hairston, McDonald Lighting Up NC Pro-Am

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I know, I know. It's a summer league and the competition is not the same as what these players will face once the season starts. That being said, Leslie McDonald and P.J. Hairston have been taking their games at the NC Pro-Am at North Carolina-Central very seriously. Either they both feel that have something to prove or Rasheed Wallace is motivating them, whatever the case, the Tar Heel teammates are certainly bringing it.

Inside Carolina has footage of every shot both players took and in the case of Hairston he took a fairly high number going 10-21 and 5-8 from three for 30 points. McDonald scored 22 points on 7-11 shooting but did not hit a three on two attempts. McDonald seemed content to drive the lane and at one point posted up then scored on a spin move to the basket. Likewise Hairston drove to the basket some but scored mainly on the fast break or three point shots. At one point Hairston even took a charge which is almost unheard of in a summer league game.

Rasheed Wallace played with Hariston and McDonald on the Sheraton Imperial team(which won) and at one point went several possessions without crossing halfcourt to play on the offensive end. Sheed was content to play defense and collect rebounds on that end of the floor. He also continues to play the role of coach and as Hariston says "father figure" to them.

UNC teammate Leslie McDonald added 21 points, and former Tar Heel Rasheed Wallace, who rarely crossed halfcourt, nevertheless provided defense and leadership for Sheraton.

“If we do something wrong, he’ll tell us, and if we do it again, he’ll yell at us,” Hairston said of Wallace. “He’s like a father figure and like a coach at the same time.”

Mostly, Wallace wanted Hairston and McDonald to be aggressive. While McDonald said he focused on his jumper two weeks ago in the Pro-Am opener, this time he had a smaller defender on him so he worked on posting up and attacking the rim.

At one point, Wallace screamed: “It’s simple basketball” after feeding McDonald in the post for a basket.

“Rasheed has played this game for so long,” McDonald said. “He’s been on our level, he’s been beyond and he has valuable information for us. So if he tells you to do something, you do it, and if you don’t, then that’s your choice, because that’s excellent advice.”

I don't know how it works in other programs but at UNC the current players benefit greatly from returning players, especially guys like Wallace who appear to have a heart for coaching.

While the grain of salt warning applies to watching these guys play in summer league, I do wonder to what extent McDonald and Hairston are giving the public a preview of what it is going to be like in practice once October rolls around. At this stage it is a fairly safe bet that McDonald and Hairston are going to compete for the starting spot at wing guard. Dexter Strickland, presuming he is close to 100% will likely start the season at point guard while Marcus Paige adjusts to the college game. That leaves an all-out competition between McDonald and Hairston for the two spot although the way Roy rotates players, both probably end up playing the same number of minutes much the same way Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green did in 2008. In fact, Hairston could be a Danny Green-type player coming off the bench to hit threes and jump start the offense. He needs to improve his defense and that end of the floor will be deciding factor on who starts. I would give the edge to McDonald in that respect but that remains to be seen.

Ultimately the big takeaway from watching these two play in the NC Pro-Am is they look like players with a chip on their shoulder and out to prove something. If they bring that same attitude to the 2012-13 season along with a reliable jump shot, I think we will all be very happy.