UNC's McDonald cleared to play
Posted December 18, 2013
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Leslie McDonald is cleared to rejoin the Tar Heels, who take on Texas Wednesday night at the Smith Center, according to an announcement from the NCAA.
The statement made no mention of the University of North Carolina's other sidelined player, P.J. Hairston, other than to say McDonald's was the only request for reinstatement that UNC had filed.
"I feel blessed to play again for Carolina. I truly regret putting my family, UNC and my teammates and coaches through this," said McDonald in a statement released by the school Wednesday. "I am going to enjoy every minute of this second chance and play as hard as I can to help my teammates and coaches as they have helped me."
"We are certainly glad to have this issue resolved for Leslie. It has been a terrible time for Leslie and his family and our basketball team," head coach Roy Williams said. "Leslie has one more semester to contribute to our team and finish his degree. I feel sure he will be truly dedicated to accomplishing both of those goals."
McDonald, a senior guard, was found to have received "multiple impermissible extra benefits," the NCAA wrote. He has missed nine games, and he will have to give $1,783 to a charity of his choice by the end of the regular season.
McDonald got access to cars, hotel rooms, a cell phone and saw his campus parking tickets paid, according to findings by UNC and the NCAA.
"These issues have had an effect on not only Leslie, but his coaches, teammates and everyone who supports our program," athletic director Bubba Cunningham said. "He made some mistakes and faced serious consequences as a result, but I am glad for Leslie that he is able to return."
The NCAA's statement did not specifically mention McDonald's use of custom mouth guards from Iceberg Holdings, a company founded by UNC dental school grad and Durham resident Spencer Howard. UNC issued a cease-and-desist letter to the company in July, asking them to discontinue using images of McDonald in their advertising.
Howard is the cousin and business partner of Haydn "Fats" Thomas, the Durham party promoter with connections to Hairston and other current and former Tar Heels athletes.
Documents and social media posts also tie Thomas, a convicted felon, to former basketball players John Henson, Dexter Strickland and Harrison Barnes and former UNC football player Greg Little.
Thomas first made news in June after rental vehicles driven by Hairston were traced back to his address.
Hairston and two others were arrested at a traffic checkpoint in Durham June 5 when police found marijuana in their vehicle. Hairston was also charged with driving without a license. All charges against Hairston have since been dropped, but the other two men each face one misdemeanor count of possession of marijuana.
Hairston and Henson were also pictured with Thomas in a photograph posted to Facebook.
McDonald tweeted last year that he got a cell phone from Thomas. "Yeah all I did is restore it and activated it," he wrote.
According to the NCAA, UNC submitted the first request that McDonald be reinstated last Wednesday and the complete request for reinstatement on December 17. "At this time, McDonald’s reinstatement request is the only one the NCAA has received from North Carolina," the NCAA wrote.