Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 18, 2013
CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina guard Leslie McDonald has been cleared by the NCAA to resume playing for the Tar Heels.
The NCAA made the announcement Wednesday, about 4 hours before the 14th-ranked Tar Heels (7-2) were to play Texas, and team spokesman Steve Kirschner said in a statement that McDonald would return against the Longhorns.
In the statement, coach Roy Williams said this “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,” Williams said. “He has suffered the consequences of his actions and I hope he has learned a lesson that I also hope his teammates recognize.”
The NCAA says the impermissible benefits received by McDonald from “numerous individuals” during this spring and summer include the use of luxury cars, payment of parking tickets, a cellphone and lodging.
The school had not previously specified McDonald’s issue.
He sat out nine games and must repay $1,783 to a charity of his choice before his last regular season game.
“I feel blessed to play again for Carolina,” McDonald said. “I truly regret putting my family, UNC and my teammates and coaches through this. I apologize to everyone who cares about the University of North Carolina and will do what I can to make up for it.”
Neither McDonald nor teammate P.J. Hairston have played during the eligibility review by the school and the NCAA.
Hairston’s status remains unclear. The 6-foot-6 junior averaged nearly 15 points last season, shot 40 percent from 3-point range and passed on entering the NBA draft in April.
Authorities twice cited him during the offseason while driving a rental vehicle linked to a felon and party promoter, raising the possibility of an improper benefits violation. He was indefinitely suspended from the team following his third run-in with authorities, who cited him for driving 93 mph in a 65 mph zone along Interstate 85 near Salisbury.
McDonald is a career reserve who averaged about seven points last year but was set to contend for a starting role.
When schools discover rules violations, they must declare the player ineligible and may ask the NCAA for reinstatement. The NCAA said UNC initially asked for McDonald’s reinstatement on Dec. 11 and followed that with a complete request Tuesday.
The NCAA said those are the only reinstatement requests UNC has made.