Following his stellar high school career at Archbishop Molloy in Queens, Cole Anthony was considered the cream of his class — a surefire top-5 NBA draft pick.
It had been awhile since New York City produced a point guard, but Anthony was going to carry the torch that was passed through Nate Archibald, Kenny Anderson, Stephon Marbury and so many others.
But then college happened for Anthony. And it was a mess.
“It frustrates me every single say,” Anthony said. “Every single day since the season ended, during the season, it was just super frustrating. Especially not to be able to be healthy and be out there. I just got to come into this with a chip on my shoulder.”
In a weak class, Anthony is now projected as a late first rounder for Wednesday’s draft. He said Friday that neither the Knicks — who choose eighth and 27th — nor the Nets — who pick 19th — contacted him for a workout or interview. Still, Anthony hasn’t lost confidence or hope after his disappointing and injury-plagued season at North Carolina.
“I think I’m a very, very good scorer. I think I’m a very good passer and defender. I didn’t get to really showcase that much at UNC, I honestly was just a shell of myself and really wasn’t healthy,” Anthony said. “Probably played six games healthy. I feel like I bring a lot to the table, especially with the NBA spacing. I think I really add a lot to a team.”
Anthony suffered a partially torn meniscus last season but still played 22 games, averaging 18.5 points, 5.7 boards and four assists. Before the COVID-19 shutdown, the Tar Heels were 14-19 and about to finish their first losing season in nearly 20 years. Among other critiques, Anthony developed a reputation of being a poor teammate. He said it came up in nearly all of his pre-draft interviews.
“It’s very much false,” Anthony said. “If you base it off my play and say I made a lot of bad decisions, you might think I’m a bad teammate. I respect your opinion but I’m just going to say it’s wrong; it’s incorrect. I’m a super supportive guy. I want to see all of my teammates succeed as much as I want to see myself succeed, if not more. I don’t know where the narrative comes from but it is what it is.”
Despite the negative result, Anthony said he doesn’t regret returning after missing just 11 games because of the knee surgery.
“Did it probably hurt my draft stock? Yeah. It’s the reality of the situation. But did I regret it? No,” Anthony said. “I’m glad I got to play with my teammates at UNC. I’m glad I got to play for Coach Williams and the whole coaching staff. Making that decision to go to UNC is a decision I’ll never regret. And so I’m really happy I was able to come back and play. So I don’t regret that decision at all.”
As of Friday, Anthony had worked out for three teams — the Heat, Magic and Wizards. The 19-year-old has remained in New York during the pandemic while working out at the Gaucho’s Gym with former Arizona assistant coach Book Richardson. He’s listed as a point guard but scouts have pegged him as more of a 2 in the NBA, which has probably contributed to his draft drop.
“I think you got to (play both positions in the NBA). It’s just the reality of it,” Anthony said. “The approach with a lot of teams is these two guard fronts. You see it with Golden State. The Rockets did it this past season. Those are what best teams are getting. Even LeBron (James) had (Rajon) Rondo. The best teams are going to have two-guard fronts and I think I can excel at both.”
Anthony’s father, Greg, a former Knick point guard and current analyst at Turner Sports, told the Daily News in August that his son would embrace playing professionally in his hometown for the Knicks. That seems an unlikely pairing now but Greg Anthony believes NYC will be proud of its latest point guard.
““He had a horrible year (at UNC). Probably couldn’t have had a worse year, and he still put up 19 (points per game), 6 (rebounds) and 4 (assists),” Greg Anthony said. “He didn’t shoot it well, but he didn’t have the opportunities he would’ve liked. He learned a lot, had a great experience there, and where he ends up — I know how he’s wired, he’s going to be a great player. So I’m not really worried or concerned.”
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