CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — When it came time for the public-address announcer to formally introduce Cole Anthony to the North Carolina crowd during the “Late Night with Roy” fan event Friday, he did not disappoint.
That was well before he even touched a basketball. Anthony, the ballyhooed freshman point guard, played up the wild cheers, waving his arms in the air for more noise, strutting down a makeshift catwalk and then taking off his jersey and twirling it over his head.
He is not a player lacking in confidence, and it showed not only during his public introduction, but throughout the two-hour glorified pep rally celebrating North Carolina basketball. He took his place front and center in a danceoff between teammates, including a pretty decent moonwalk to “Smooth Criminal.”
He finished off the skills challenge with a windmill dunk, which was met with more wild cheers.
Then came the basketball, albeit a small, fleeting glimpse. The Tar Heels had a 20-minute scrimmage to close out the night, with Anthony and fellow freshman standout Armando Bacot paired on the same team. Anthony hit a couple 3-pointers and had a beautiful assist, and it became easy to see why so much preseason hype has followed him.
The No. 2 recruit in the nation and son of former NBA player Greg Anthony is expected to come right in and meet the high expectations that come standard for the Tar Heels every season.
Cole Anthony and Roy Williams did not speak to the media after the event. But teammates described the confidence and work ethic they see every day in the freshman.
“He’s a great player,” guard Brandon Robinson said. “Why would he lack confidence? He knows his talent and he works hard, so when you work on your game you can be like that because he knows himself, he knows he puts in the work and the results show.”
Guard Rechon “Leaky” Black noted Anthony and Bacot are constantly in the gym.
“I love working out with them,” Black said. “They’re very mature for their ages. I’m in the gym at least two times a day, but I feel like every time I’m here, I see them here rehabbing, shooting, just something they’re doing. It’s been good to see.”
North Carolina has had only one official practice, so there is still much work to be done, especially from a chemistry standpoint with four starters gone. The Tar Heels also signed transfers Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce, who are also working to fit in.
Freshmen Anthony Harris and Jeremiah Francis sat out the scrimmage because the staff is easing them in slowly after high school knee injuries, but Robinson and Black praised them as well.
Developing team chemistry and a firm understanding about what Williams wants and how he wants it remains a storyline to watch. Particularly as Anthony takes over the point guard role. If Friday night is any indication, he won’t shy away from the challenge.
“We’ve just got to continue to get better and learn how to play with each other,” Robinson said. “I’m looking forward to getting better with the guys and just getting that chemistry. Half our team is new, so it’s a lot of teaching, a lot of slowing down, and I want to keep going, but we’ve got to be patient with each other.”
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