Getting to Know The 2009 USA Nike Hoop Summit Team: Leslie McDonald
March 17, 2009 - Colorado Springs, Colo.
University of North Carolina-bound Leslie McDonald (Briarcrest H.S. / Memphis, Tenn.) has added a couple stamps to his passport and valuable experience to his game in back-to-back summers with USA Basketball. The 6-4 combo guard has helped the USA to a silver medal at the 2008 FIBA Americas U18 Championship in Argentina and a gold medal with the USA Red Team in the 2007 Men's Youth Development Festival in Colorado Springs, Colo. When McDonald suits up for his third USA squad on April 11, however, no passport will be required. Instead, the 2009 Nike Hoop Summit will feature McDonald and his USA teammates against the top 19-and-unders from all around the globe in a one-game showdown at the Rose Garden in Portland, Ore.
The USA's seven game win streak in the Nike Hoop Summit likely will be in good hands with McDonald, who has scored more than 2,300 career points as a high school player. USABasketball.com caught up with the future Tar Heel to talk about his USA Basketball experience, his high school career and his motivation.
You've played for two previous USA Basketball Teams. What does it feel like to be selected to this team?
Once again, I feel honored to be selected as one of the top players in the nation. Representing your country is always an incredible honor. I feel blessed to have that opportunity again.
Who are you most looking forward to playing with?
I am looking forward to playing with everybody, but it will be my first time playing with John Henson. He is going to be my future teammate at North Carolina, so getting a chance to play with him will be a great experience for both of us.
From The Sideline
'What makes Leslie a special player is that he does not depend on one thing to make him successful. He is truly an all-around player. He can play a point guard; he can play shooting guard; he can be a post player, and he can play great defense. He scores when he needs to, and he can also be our assist man.
'He has scored over 2,300 points in his career, so he is definitely a great scorer. I think he is a very good outside shot, and he is a very fierce competitor. I don't want to say he is a selfish scorer by any means, but the one thing he does the best is probably score points.
'Two of the final schools that it came down to for Leslie to sign with were North Carolina and Duke, and I think that is the No. 1 thing you can look at when talking about his character. Those are two programs that don't put up with nonsense type kids. He is very well liked by all the students, and he is a leader in the school. He has great integrity, and he has great character.'
- John Harrington, head coach
Did you watch the Nike Hoop Summit last year?
I watched a half of the game last year. I wasn't able to watch the entire game, but I really enjoyed what I did see. I thought the USA team was well rounded and showed a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.
You have twice played for USA Basketball. What have you learned about international basketball ?
Going overseas is a totally different environment, especially the style of play. The ball is different, the lane is much wider and the rules are different. Once a shot hits the rim, you can knock it off. It just feels like a totally different game from the game we play in high school and AAU.
With the U18 team, you were a high school athlete playing for college coaches. What was that experience like?
The first day was kind of strange to me. Taking the high school mentality and transforming that into a college type mentality was an adjustment, but the second day I picked it right up.
Do you think you improved as a player during that experience?
Oh, tremendously. Being with the best players in the country really helped me out. Playing with those guys and doing what the coaches told me to do made me a much better player.
Are you looking forward to playing in the Rose Garden?
I have played locally in the FedExForum in Memphis, but I have never traveled and played in an NBA arena. Playing in the Rose Garden will be an honor. I would love to play in as many NBA arenas as possible, and hopefully for a long time to come.
How would you describe you game?
I would say I'm very smooth with the ball. I'm very creative, and I like to get my teammates open. I like to do everything. I like to rebound. I like to score the ball, as well as get assists and just be a floor general out on the court.
What area of your game are you most focused on improving right now?
Being more explosive to the basket. I know I can shoot well, but being more explosive to the basket and creating baskets for other people, that is what I'm working on. That includes jab steps, crossovers, step-backs, behind-the-back dribbles, anything to create a lane to get to the basket.
What is your least favorite workout or drill?
My least favorite would be when you have a medicine ball and you have to hold it above your head and jump and touch the rim rapidly. It's pretty intense.
What motivates you?
I have worked so hard, working my tail off all through high school, so why not do it now? I have come so far, I just tell myself to toughen up and push a little bit more and it will be over. Another thing that motivates me is, right now, if I'm not working out, somebody else is working out. So, when I'm sitting down, somebody else is working out, trying to be better than me. That always motivates me.
We lost in the semifinal of the state tournament. I really wanted to be back-to-back state champions, but it didn't go that way. I was satisfied with our finish because I was glad that we made it that far. We weren't supposed to even make it to the state tournament.
What is your favorite high school memory?
It would be last year at state. Nobody really expected us to win state. We just came out of nowhere and won. That was the best moment ever in high school for me.
Why did you decide to sign with North Carolina?
I think North Carolina fits my style of play, and when I went up there to visit and really got to know the players and the coaches and the environment, I really soaked it all in and just knew it was the best fit for me.
Did you watch the 2008 U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball Team? What was your favorite moment?
I watched quite a few games. I caught what I could with the time change and everything. The thing I remember the most is they were having fun. I saw Kobe, and LeBron and Wade and Dwight, all of them were smiling, laughing and having a good time. That's the biggest thing to me, is having a good time on the court. That's the best thing to have.