Leslie McDonald cleared to return, P.J. Hairston status remains unclear

North Carolina guard Leslie McDonald (left) has been cleared to return for the Tar Heels. Uncertainty still surrounds P.J. Hairston.
North Carolina guard Leslie McDonald (left) has been cleared to return for the Tar Heels. Uncertainty still surrounds P.J. Hairston. Robert Willett -- rwillett@newsobserver.com

North Carolina senior guard Leslie McDonald has been cleared to play and will return tonight for North Carolina’s game against Texas. But uncertainly continues to surround P.J. Hairston, the junior who led UNC in scoring last season. That’s the news, in a couple of sentences, after the NCAA announced earlier today that McDonald could return.

Absent from the NCAA’s release is P.J. Hairston’s name. But there is this, from the NCAA: “At this time, McDonald’s reinstatement request is the only one the NCAA has received from North Carolina.”

In other words: the NCAA has no reinstatement request from UNC about Hairston. What does that mean, exactly? It could mean a few things. One of which, of course, is that Hairston’s time at UNC is over. Another is that UNC hasn’t yet submitted a reinstatement request for Hairston.

We’ll see.

As for McDonald. He has to repay $1,783 to a charity of his choice for accepting numerous impermissible benefits. The benefits included: the use of luxury cars, the payment of parking tickets, a cell phone and lodging.

Said UNC coach Roy Williams, in a statement: “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. I was very disappointed by Leslie’s actions and he knows this. He has suffered the consequences of his actions and I hope he has learned a lesson that I also hope his teammates recognize. Leslie has been a sensational teammate and worked hard in practice to help our team. He understands what he has already lost and wants to really enjoy this second chance. 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.”

Said McDonald, in a statement: “I feel blessed to play again for Carolina. 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. You never know how much you love to play the game until you are not allowed to. I learned that two years ago when I hurt my knee and had to sit out an entire season. I hated going through it again, but it was a result of the mistakes I made. 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.”