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NCAA clears UNC's Leslie McDonald; report says Hairston could sit season

By Matt Norlander | Staff Writer

Leslie McDonald, left, and P.J. Hairston, are sitting out and awaiting the NCAA's word. (USATSI)
Leslie McDonald, left, and P.J. Hairston have missed the first nine games this season. (USATSI)

The NCAA has cleared North Carolina senior guard Leslie McDonald to play, effective immediately. The organization sent out a release Wednesday night in advance of UNC's home game against Texas.

Junior forward P.J. Hairston's eligibility remains in limbo, according a report from Yahoo Sports, which cites a source in saying Hairston "is unlikely to play this season."

Both players were held back from playing this season due to ongoing investigations from the NCAA. Hairston was pulled over twice by police last spring while driving rental cars connected to an ex-convict named Haydn "Fats" Thomas. McDonald's likeness was used to sell mouthguards.

McDonald has to pay back $1,783 he impermissibly earned, and that money will go to the charity of his choice.

"North Carolina discovered the rule violations on Oct. 24 and then submitted a reinstatement request to the NCAA for McDonald on Dec. 11," according to the NCAA's release. "The NCAA then worked with North Carolina to finalize the facts before the university submitted its complete request for McDonald's reinstatement on Dec. 17."

McDonald took benefits "from numerous individuals during the spring and summer of 2013," according to the NCAA's finding.

"These benefits included the use of luxury cars, payment of parking tickets, a cell phone and lodging," the NCAA said. He has to pay back the benefits prior to UNC's final game of its season, which falls on March 8 against Duke.

If a verdict does come down on Hairston that prevents him from playing in the near-future for UNC, declaring for the NBA draft could be the next step for the Heels junior, who is seen as first-round material by many. Yahoo's source said as much, too.

Meanwhile, Thomas told USA Today Sports on Wednesday that he has not and will not interview with the organization regarding its investigation surrounding Hairston.

North Carolina is ranked 14th in the latest AP Poll and has wins this season over Louisville, Michigan State and Kentucky, in addition to losses against UAB and Belmont. The Heels tip against Texas at 7 p.m. ET on Wednesday.

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