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Cole Anthony played for Terrance “Munch” Williams and the PSA Cardinals throughout his high school career. Anthony isn’t the first NBA player to suit up for Williams’ program – and he won’t be the last.
Six players from the PSA program have been drafted in recent years. So Williams has an informed perspective when it comes to prep players transitioning to the NBA.
And he believes Anthony will thrive in the league – regardless of where he’s drafted.
“He's going to do great, because if you think about the guys who struggle in the NBA, it comes back to, what is their ‘why,’” says Williams, the executive director of ProScholars Athletics since 2008.
“A lot of guys that tell you their why is ‘I want to help my mom get out of the hood. I want to help my family be secure. When I get this money, it's supposed to evaporate all of the problems that we've had as a unit.’ So their ‘why’ is, ‘I'm making it (to the NBA) for the money.’ And that’s not a right or wrong thing.
“But because (Cole) always been financially stable, his ‘why’ has always been, ‘I want to play basketball at the highest level against what people consider the best level of competition.
“His why is competition and he’s always going to find competition in NBA.”
Just where Anthony will end up on Nov. 18 is tough to gauge.
Anthony – the son of former Knick guard Greg Anthony - began the college season projected as one of the top picks in the 2020 NBA Draft. He averaged 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game for North Carolina last season. After missing 11 games due to a partially torn meniscus, Anthony returned in February. The Tar Heels struggled both in his absence and after he came back, finishing the season 14-19.
Now, nearly seven months after his last college game, Anthony is projected by some mock drafts as a late first-round pick.
Matt Babcock, a draft analyst and founder of Babcock Hoops, said on The Putback that some teams had expressed concern about Anthony’s makeup. Members of those organizations told Babcock something to the effect of “I’m not sure he’s our kind of guy.”
“With that said, he does have a lot of talent so there’s going to be a certain point in the draft where someone is going to say, ‘You know what? Screw it. Let’s go with the talented kid in the draft,’” Babcock said.
The Knicks had scouted Anthony extensively during the season. But he’s unlikely to be available at 27 – the latter the club’s first-round picks. And, if the mock drafts are correct, it would be a surprise if New York took Anthony at No. 8.
Are scouts missing the full picture on Anthony? The New York native had a stellar high-school career, winning the MVP of the Jordan Brand Classic, McDonald’s All America Game and Nike Hoop Summit as a senior.
Williams, who coached Anthony at PSA throughout his high school career, thinks teams that based their analysis of Anthony solely on last season are making a mistake.
“You bet on the overall body of work and not just a snippet of information,” Williams says.
If Anthony is taken behind some of the other guards in the draft (LaMelo Ball, Killian Hayes, Tyrese Haliburton) and ends up as a better NBA player, it would reveal a flaw in the way scouts analyzed him.
Williams points to Anthony’s desire to compete against the best – at all times – as something that will help him at the next level.
“If you look at his history, unlike any other kid in that class, from (James) Wiseman to Anthony Edwards, any of these guys, he's played the highest level of basketball as you can play in high school, right?
“For three, four years, he's done every single camp that's supposed to be elite. From Nike Skills Academy to Adidas Nations, to Stephen Curry’s camp – he’s done every single camp you could think of multiple times and was successful. He's done USA basketball and won a Gold medal.
“….A lot of other guys journeys are kinda like ducking the competition when Cole is running into the fire. The reason he picked (North Carolina) is because the ACC, in his mind was the highest level of competition.
“For better or for worse, he's always positioned himself to go against whoever the world thought was the best, so there’s not going to be a fear factor when he gets to the league.”
Williams also believes that Anthony, a 6-3, 190-pound scoring guard, will benefit from increased spacing in the NBA.
“If you watched UNC, guys were trapping him on ball screens, guys where double-teaming him, denying him the ball in the halfcourt – there were a lot of gimmick defenses,” Williams says of Anthony’s Carolina team, which also impacted spacing of the court by regularly playing two big men.
If Anthony is the fourth or fifth point guard taken on Nov. 18, it will be safe to assume that many NBA evaluators were turned off by Anthony’s lone college season.
But are they putting too much stock into that season?
“I’m a firm believer of the body of work and people can get fooled by perception versus reality. Some of the guys who they are thinking of picking ahead of him - if you study their body of work, it's not as good as (Anthony’s)," Williams said.
Williams sees Anthony’s decision to attend all of the top individual camps and play in all of the top tournaments – when he didn’t necessarily have to - as something the NBA may be overlooking.
“There are so many reasons why these guys who people think they should draft haven’t done (what Anthony did),” Williams says. “The reason is because most people are looking for the easiest way to make it to the NBA. Not stay. Cole is built to stay. These guys are built to get there. And when these NBA teams realized that, it’s going to hurt them because they didn't do a lot of research to know, ‘this kid skips out on every third game at a big camp. He ducks the competition.’
“When you get to the NBA, you can't hide from the competition. Then when times get hard, you don't have a place to turn.
“But Cole, when things get hard, he's always said, ‘I'm going back into the fire.’”
Will that fire lead Anthony to a strong NBA career? If so, execs from teams that pass on him on Nov. 18 for another point guard may regret it.