- Next up in our freshman intro series is Cole Anthony, UNC's dynamic new point guard who will be crucial to the Tar Heels' 2019-20 season hopes.
In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. In 2019, six of the top 10 NBA draft picks were one-and-done, and eight of the 14 lottery picks overall. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond. Just look at last year’s group of rookies we profiled: Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, Jalen Smith and Devon Dotson lead a whopping 12 former 2018 five-stars back for a sophomore season.
With all of that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball for 2019–20 and breaking down the impact those players could have. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. Next up is the No. 3 overall recruit, UNC's Cole Anthony. You can view all of the profiles to date here.
What He Means for UNC's Recruiting Class
Sitting atop North Carolina’s No. 9 ranked recruiting class is 6’3” combo guard Cole Anthony, the nation’s No. 3 ranked recruit (per RSCI) who is generally regarded as the top point guard in the 2019 class. Roy Williams has profusely praised the five-star floor general during his recruiting cycle and especially since his commitment. The Tar Heels' hopes for this season are as high as Anthony’s ceiling, but the guard has help coming to Chapel Hill with him. Five-star center Armando Bacot (No. 23), four-star combo guard Anthony Harris (No. 70) and three-star Jeremiah Francis, a true point, also arrived this summer with the new crop of incoming talent. Grad transfers Justin Pierce (William and Mary) and Christian Keeling (Charleston Southern) are two more new faces for Carolina who bring plenty of scoring potential and experience to a deep backcourt. With a host of new guards plus Bacot helping anchor the frontcourt, Williams has set himself up well to build a talented team of new Tar Heels.
How He Fits
Anthony pledged his commitment to North Carolina in April, giving the Tar Heels a big backcourt boost late in the recruiting cycle. The son of former NBA guard Greg Anthony, the incoming five-star freshman is New York native who finished his high school career at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia. Anthony is major addition for Williams, whose team lost five of its top six players to graduation and the pros, including Coby White, the Heels' primary ball-handler. While Anthony may not be around very long in Chapel Hill, he’s an explosive, well-rounded, college-ready player who will be the key to North Carolina’s hopes. A skilled ball-handler and dynamic scorer (who leans more toward the latter than natural facilitator), Anthony isn’t the biggest guard around. He has, however, filled out well physically, coming to Carolina at 190 pounds, and hasn’t hasn’t had much trouble getting into the paint and making plays over the course of his high school career. The 6’3” McDonald’s All-American is a capable jump shooter and has improved as a shooter from long-range. He’s got great handles, is talented in transition and is a very good finisher at the rim.
Anthony is a rare two-way player who is a consistent competitor on both ends of the floor. He can keep defenders off balance with the ball in his hands and is explosive in space. His quickness translates to his own defensive abilities, which will help Carolina contain potent ACC offenses. He’ll stuff the stat sheets but needs to work on cutting down on turnovers, blending in more facilitating and tightening up his shot selection. There are some concerns about his leadership skills, especially as a freshman point guard, but with an above-average athleticism and relentless spirit, he should still bring much more upside to Chapel Hill than any negatives.
In light of White's NBA departure, Anthony will take the reins of the UNC offense. Carolina’s new floor general, who Roy Williams regards as potentially the most complete guard that he has ever recruited, will undoubtedly make the most of the offensive options around him. Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black, Harris and Keeling are all candidates to slot in alongside Anthony, with Keeling considered the likely starter at the two. After losing an enormous of amount of their scoring production, the Tar Heels need a threat on the perimeter to take some heat off of Anthony, and Keeling, who shot 38% from three last season, looks like the best candidate for the job. While Williams has plenty of guard options to help those two out, he’ll look to Bacot and Garrison Brooks to form the foundation of his frontcourt while either Robinson or Black to slide into the three slot once Williams’ figures out his preferred partner for Anthony. Brooks fits at the four and Bacot at the five.
Importance to UNC's Success/Team Outlook
Carolina’s ceiling will depend on what Anthony can do when handed the keys this season. He’ll have to help replace both White’s facilitating, all the scoring lost to graduation and the pros while leading the Tar Heels, who usually boast more experience than they do this season (grad transfers aside, as they’re still new to the team, too, technically). Anthony is a quality two-way asset and an undeniable talent for Williams and should serve as a massive boost to the team’s backcourt in light of last season’s losses. As long as he can mesh with the rest of the Carolina’s crew, he should be a huge plus during this rebuild. He’s competitive, dynamic and, most importantly, looks college-ready. The rest of the newcomers will also be counted on for some serious contributions, especially Bacot down low, but the crew is well rounded and fills the right holes for the Tar Heels which should bode well for the season.