The roster was up in arms after the departures of 3 seniors, and freshmen Coby White and Nassir Little. Roy Williams was rebuilding the roster through grad transfers, but still needed a point guard to run the team, after Seventh Woods announced his decision to transfer. He eventually got his guy, in Cole Anthony the #2 player in high school.The son of former UNLV star and NBA veteran Greg Anthony, basketball ran through Cole’s veins. Upon landing his commitment, Roy Williams referred to him as the best point guard he’d ever recruited. After a summer on campus playing pick up, the hype continued to grow. Carolina had transitioned rather well from Marcus Paige to Joel Berry, then to Coby White. The transition from one freshman to another was believed to be seamless.
After all the hype, Cole Anthony made his debut against Notre Dame, and he didn’t disappoint scoring 34 points, and taking over the game in the second half. He also grabbed 11 rebounds, confirming his ability to be a complete player. 2 days later he dropped 20 & 10 at UNC-W. A week later he scored 28 in a win over Gardner-Webb. While it was fun seeing his talent on display, a disturbing trend was developing. Anthony was the only player on the court playing with any sort of confidence, or aggression. Instead of forcing the issue, other players just simply waited for Anthony to make a play. He was able to do so the first 3 games, but thinking he could do so for a full season was a long shot. He nearly recorded a triple double in the win over Elon, before the team departed for the Bahamas. Anthony scored 13 in the tournament opening victory over Alabama, before scoring 22 in a loss to Michigan. In the third place game against Oregon, Anthony had another sensational performance. Going up against Peyton Pritchard, Anthony scored 19, while guiding the team to a win over a top 10 team. His first month in a Tar Heel uniform didn’t disappoint, as he averaged 20.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 4.4 apg.
The schedule to start December was daunting, as the team was tasked with taking on consecutive top 10 teams in Ohio State and Virginia respectively. They lost both games, as the offense failed to score 50 in each game. Anthony wasn’t at his best, only scoring 15 against the Buckeyes and 12 against the Cavaliers. Frustration was setting in for the star guard, who wasn’t get much help from his teammates, and was struggling himself to adjust to the college game. His eagerness and desire to get better would have to wait though, as it was announced shortly before the Wofford game he’d undergo knee surgery, and miss 6 weeks. Carolina would go on to lose to Wofford and Gonzaga, before closing the month with solid wins over UCLA and Yale.
HIs injury forced him to miss the entire month of January, which saw Carolina lose 5 straight games to start the new year. As his return grew near, the team picked up wins over Miami and rival NC State, as it appeared they had learned to play without him. Many wondered if Anthony would return, after the season went into a tailspin. At 10-10, qualifying for the NCAA tournament would be a challenge, but with Anthony back in the lineup, a run was possible.
It was supposed to be a happy return for Anthony, when he came back for the Boston College game. Instead Carolina lost another inexcusable game at home despite him scoring 26 off the bench, in what started a 7 game losing streak. What hindered the team the most, was that during his absence Garrison Brooks had developed into a scoring machine. Those two had a hard time trying to play together. Against Duke, Anthony had 24 & 11, but in the final minutes was outplayed by Tre Jones, as a chance to upset their rival slipped away. Anthony was also struggling to be efficient from the field, failing to shoot better than 50% in a game. That all changed in a win over NC State, that snapped the 7 game losing streak. Anthony scored 19 points, while shooting 58%. Anthony looked the part of point guard that had figured out how to play the position for Roy Williams. The next game he scored 25 in a win over Syracuse, where he shot 61% from the field. After a long stretch of losing, two consecutive win had the team confident heading into March.
Anthony continued his stellar play, in a win over Wake Forest, scoring 28 and shooting 57% from the field. In the season finale, Anthony had a chance to redeem himself against Tre Jones, but only scored 9 points in the season finale loss to Duke. From there the team headed to Greensboro to compete in the ACC Tournament. Knowing they’d have to win 5 games in 5 days, the task was daunting, but not impossible. He scored 10 points in the win over Virginia Tech, and finished with 5 points in an embarrassing loss to Syracuse to close the season.
Anthony announced last week he will forego his remaining eligibility, and enter the NBA Draft. Despite missing 11 games, Anthony still did enough to earn 1st Team All-ACC Freshman team & was 3rd Team All-ACC.