Will Cole Anthony Make His Return Against State?

Brett Friedlander

Will he or won't he?

That's a question weighing on the minds of fans of both NC State and North Carolina as the rivals prepare for the first of their two meetings on the basketball court this season, Monday at PNC Arena.

The "he" everyone is taking about is Cole Anthony, the Tar Heels' star point guard who has been out of action since undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on Dec. 17.

At the time, it was reported that Anthony would be sidelined for 4-6 weeks -- leading to speculation that his return to the court would come against the Wolfpack.

Six weeks later, with Anthony having recently hinted on Twitter that he'll be back soon, it's become almost a foregone conclusion that the potential top-5 NBA draft pick will be back in uniform for the showdown with State.

It's a possibility that might make some fans nervous, but not C.J. Bryce and his Wolfpack teammates.

"There's a rumor out there tht Cole Anthony might be back," the redshirt senior wing said during a media availability prior to Saturday's 64-58 loss at Georgia Tech. "That's something I'm really looking forward to, because we want to play against anybody and everybody in this conference and we'll take care of business."

Anthony, a 6-foot-3 freshman whose father is former UNLV star and current NBA television analyst Greg Anthony, averaged 19.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in the nine games he played before his injury.

He adds a dynamic element to a struggling Tar Heels team that snapped a historic five-game losing streak on Saturday with a 94-71 rout of Miami on Saturday.

It's anybody's guess how long it will take for him to shake off the rust of a lengthy layoff and much of an immediate impact he'll have on UNC.

Those are issues State coach Kevin Keatts said he's too busy to worry about, with own his team coming off a flat performance in Atlanta and only one day to prepare for the Tar Heels.  

"You know me. I haven't paid much attention to them," Keatts said at his postgame press conference on Saturday. "I do know they had a good win (against Miami). But I haven't had a chance to really watch tape on those guys. 

"I don't know what Cole's situation is. I'm different than our fan base. I don't think he's playing on Monday."

Whether he plays or not, Keatts' team is going to need a better effort than the one it gave at Tech in order to get back on the winning track.

The State coach said he was "pissed off" that his team didn't show the same kind fight against the Yellow Jackets that it did during the final minutes of its previous game, a win at Virginia.

While there are any number of reasons why the Wolfpack came out so flat on Saturday, junior guard Devon Daniels said that looking past Tech to Monday's rivalry game with UNC isn't among them.

"We try make it a point to make our next game our most important game of the season," Daniels said. "We didn't come out focused enough. We didn't compete hard enough and they got the win."