Published: Jul 27, 2008 08:56 AM
Modified: Jul 27, 2008 08:56 AM
A strong Tar Heel flavor
Three future UNC players compete with U.S. squad
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Leslie McDonald, a rising senior at Briarcrest High School in Memphis, appeared to be staying in his home state for college basketball.His biography in the USA basketball media guide listed the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee among his top college choices. There was no mention of North Carolina. But that is where the 6-foot-4 guard is headed.McDonald said his first visit to Chapel Hill earlier this year was the deciding factor for his verbal commitment."I felt very comfortable at North Carolina," said McDonald, after a practice session at the Verizon Center in Washington with the 2008 U-18 boys national basketball team.McDonald was the 2008 Gatorade State Player of the Year and Tennessee's Mr. Basketball after being a finalist for both honors in 2007. He has scored 1,697 points in his high school career with 654 rebounds, 142 assists, 119 steals and 96 blocks in 101 games, with 95 starts.McDonald said attending college away from home could be a good thing. "It will help me mature," he said. He was one of three future UNC players, along with 6-9 twins David and Travis Wear, to be named to the U.S. U-18 team that competed July 14-18 in the 2008 FIBA Americas U-18 championship in Argentina.California's Wear twins are rising seniors at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, and made verbal commitments to UNC in January. "I really like their style of play. I really feel comfortable there," David Wear said of UNC.Brother Travis cited the family environment for Roy Williams' team and the academic support provided by the Tar Heels."It just seems like a great situation to be in," he said.None of the trio of future Tar Heels was more impressive than Travis, who posted three straight double-digit scoring efforts in early wins over Venezuela (82-73), Bahamas (115-51) and Puerto Rico (106-64). His standout performances were particularly notable since the U.S. squad featured several players on their way to college next year, while the Wears and McDonald are still a year away.In the first game, Travis Wear shot 6-of-7 and earned 15 points and seven boards, earning high praise from head coach Bob McKillop. Then he shot 6-of-10 in a 15-point, four-rebound effort as the Americans cruised past Bahamas in a game that saw McDonald and David Wear add nine points each. Against Puerto Rico, Travis went for 13 and nine, hitting 4-of-8 from the field and all five of his foul shots.The Americans then defeated Canada 82-66 in the tournament semifinals, with David Wear outshining his brother by getting six points and four rebounds as Travis got into foul trouble.But the U.S. team fell 77-64 to host Argentina in the championship, getting outplayed by a team that had two years of experience together versus the 18 days the American team had been an ensemble cast. None of the Tar Heel recruits had a significant impact on the game.McKillop noted after the game that the experience had prepared the prep athletes for college ball down the road."Every one of our guys has gotten better from this experience," he said. "We've been together 18 days ... (and played) in a championship game for a gold medal in a very hostile environment."Argentina, the United States, Canada and fellow semifinalist Puerto Rico all qualified for the 2009 FIBA U-19 World Championship.McKillop, whose Davidson Wildcats enjoyed a Cinderella run to the Elite Eight this past season, led the U.S. team trials in Washington, D.C. before the trip. Other players on the U.S. team included Mason Plumlee, a rising senior at Christ High in Arden who has committed to Duke, and Ryan Kelly from Ravenscroft High School in Raleigh. His high school coach, Kevin Billerman, attended some of the practice sessions in the nation's capital and said Kelly was considering 10 colleges, including Davidson, UNC, Wake Forest, N.C. State and Virginia.Travis Wear said the trials, held at the Verizon Center and Georgetown University, were challenging."This competition is more intense than I am used to," he said. "It has been a great experience, a preview of what college will be like."The Wear twins -- whose father played at the college level and in Europe -- were interviewed by a Sports Illustrated writer and featured in the Washington Times during the workouts in Washington, D.C. They have made their mark at basketball powerhouse Mater Dei, with David Wear averaging 18 points and 10 rebounds per game last year and Travis 18 and 8 per game as their team went 35-1 and finished third in the state.
David Driver is a free-lance writer in Maryland and can be reached by visiting davidsdriver.com.
2008 The Chapel Hill News