Anthony’s return could give Tar Heels a big boost
North Carolina guard Cole Anthony, who has missed the last seven games after an arthroscopic knee procedure in December, has been hinting he could return soon.
He posted a photo on Instagram Thursday night with the caption, “Can’t wait to join my brothers on the court again,” raising speculation that he may be ready for UNC’s game against Pittsburgh on Saturday.
But should Anthony, a projected NBA lottery pick, return to the Tar Heels? UNC (8-8, 1-4 ACC) is on a three-game losing streak and is 2-5 without Anthony.
If the NCAA Tournament were to start today, or even two weeks from now, the Tar Heels would not make it, prompting some to ask why Anthony would return if he’s a projected lottery pick. According to nbadraft.net, Anthony is projected to go No. 9 overall.
ESPN analyst and former Virginia Tech coach, Seth Greenberg said on ESPN in December that he could not see a scenario where Anthony returned.
“As a basketball guy, I want him to come back,” Greenberg said in an interview with the N&O on Wednesday. “But in a business decision, he’s got a lot at stake.”
Former Duke star Zion Williamson went through the same scrutiny after he went down with a knee injury last February. Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft, missed six games and some questioned whether or not he should return to the Blue Devils. He did.
However, Anthony’s and Williamson’s situations are different. Duke was one of the favorites to win the national championship last season. The Tar Heels may not even make the tournament.
“Obviously, Cole is like one of my best friends, so if he comes back or not, I’m going to support him regardless,” UNC freshman forward Armando Bacot told the N&O last week. “But Cole, I can tell you, he wants to come back.”
Before his injury, Anthony led the Tar Heels with 19.1 points per game, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists.
UNC will face Pitt (11-6, 2-4) for the second time in 10 days. The Tar Heels led the Panthers by nine at halftime on Jan. 8 before Pitt hit 8 of 12 3-pointers in the second half and won, 73-65.
Layups: Mississippi State coach Ben Howland was slapped with a $25,000 fine and a reprimand from the SEC on Friday for discussing a conversation he had with the league office about the officiating in a loss to LSU last week . ... Michigan State’s Cassius Winston had four assists to give him the Big Ten record for career assists as 15th-ranked Spartans beat Wisconsin 67-55 in East Lansing, Michigan. Winston broke the record held by ex-Spartan Mateen Cleaves, who was at the game and finished with 816 career assists in 2000.
North Carolina G Cole Anthony may be a top-10 pick in this summer’s NBA draft.