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UNC Recruiting: Five-star guard Cole Anthony commits to UNC

After months of speculation, the Heels just landed their top target for 2019.

2019 McDonald’s All American Game Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

It’s finally official. Cole Anthony, the nation’s top combo guard and consensus top-5 recruit, will be a North Carolina Tar Heel. Anthony made the announcement this morning with Mike Greenberg on ESPN’s morning show “Get Up”. The announcement ended months of speculation about his college destination. The commitment is a huge boon to the Tar Heel staff who desperately needed some good news on the recruiting trail.

Anthony’s affinity for the Heels hasn’t been much of a secret. He has visited UNC at least five times over the last 12 months, most recently attending the Senior Night win over Duke. Fellow UNC pledge Armando Bacot has not been shy about his friendship with Anthony, or his efforts in trying to recruit the elite prospect. Despite all the signs Anthony seemed destined for Chapel Hill, the family was notoriously tight-lipped on the recruiting process and rarely gave interviews.

For months, some variation of “UNC leads but…” or “Oregon has closed the gap…” peppered responses from recruiting analysts when fans asked about Anthony’s likely landing spots. That started changing over the last two months, when key experts felt more confident that this was a done deal. That made this morning’s announcement more of a formality, but in recruiting nothing is never truly official.

Anthony, a five-star combo guard, played this past season at Oak Hill Academy in Mouth of Wilson, VA. The son of former UNLV legend and NBA guard Greg Anthony, he has been one of the most sought after and anticipated recruits in the 2019 class. He averaged 18.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists as a senior, leading Oak Hill to a 31-5 record. The 6’3”, 190 pound guard will bring much needed athleticism to next year’s Tar Heel roster, which lost five players (and four starters) from this year’s Sweet 16 team.

Similar to Nassir Little last season, Anthony has used the post-season all-star circuit to increase his stock. Last month he earned the 2019 McDonald’s All-American Game MVP. This past weekend he locked down the co-MVP award of the Jordan Brand Classic. with 25 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. Check out this profile from SBN’s Ricky O’Donnell and then enjoy some highlights.

Spending most of his high school career with a reputation as a ball-dominant scorer (sound familiar?), Anthony isn’t afraid of contact or attacking the rim. Some people possess a natural aggressiveness and Anthony is one of those players. One man’s brash is another man’s confident. When firing on all cylinders that style of play demolishes opponents. It can also can lead to out-of-control moments where turnovers quickly accumulate. That is not unusual for high school guards.

Coby White struggled with similar issues in the early parts of this past season. White quickly learned the nuances of the North Carolina system. Assuming Cole slides into the point guard position, he will have to do the same.

Because of his ability (or need) to dominate the ball, Anthony has earned a not-totally-accurate reputation of struggling to facilitate or find ways to contribute off the ball. His court vision, especially in a half-court setting is undervalued. It is also an asset that UNC’s point guards have largely lacked since Kendall Marshall left for the NBA. Those abilities were on display over the past few weeks, and should (eventually) flourish in Chapel Hill.

This past season he averaged 9.8 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game against some of the top competition in the country. Stats like those are not indicative of players who disrupt offenses to find their own shot. Those numbers should also begin to answer questions about his work ethic and willingness to improve. Both are vital tenets of UNC’s culture and philosophy.

However, the one area that stands out above his peers is Anthony’s defensive abilities. Quick, decisive, and slightly chaotic, Anthony has the potential to be a lockdown defender on the perimeter. A commitment to defense will make for a smoother transition to Chapel Hill, and help generate some quick offense that will be sorely needed. The Heels lose 77% of the scoring this off-season.

How Anthony fits into next season’s roster isn’t rocket science. Earlier this month, Brandon explained why Anthony was so important to this year’s class. With Coby White’s departure, the stud freshman has the opportunity to step into the starting point guard position. Seventh Woods will also fight for playing time. A PG combination of Anthony/Woods is likely, but after watching Coby’s success last season fans shouldn't be surprised if the freshman is running the offense next season.

Anthony is currently ranked as the #2 overall prospect by ESPN, #3 by 247 Sports, and #4 by Rivals. All three major scouting services also rate him as the top prospect at his position. His arrival also means Roy Williams will welcome top-5 recruits in back-to-back years for the just the second time since he’s been at UNC. John Henson and Harrison Barnes did it first in 2009 and 2010. Almost a decade later, Nassir Little and Cole Anthony join that exclusive club.

Anthony is the third commitment to UNC’s 2019 recruiting class. He joins fellow McDonald’s All-American Armando Bacot and point guard Jeremiah Francis as the current trio of incoming freshmen. North Carolina is also waiting on decisions from McDonald’s All-American Precious Achiuwa, and will host three prospects this week.