Greg Anthony spoke more like an analyst than a father.
He was blunt, critical and honest. He didn’t hold back when asked about his son Cole’s freshman season at North Carolina.
“I thought he had a horrible year. I thought he was really bad,” the former NBA point guard said on a Zoom call on Monday. “Now he got hurt and he was hurt earlier than when he actually ended up having to shut it down, and that had an effect on him, but he could’ve been so much better.”
In a roundabout way, though, Greg believes it was a necessary learning experience for his son, a projected lottery pick in October’s NBA draft. The trying season forced the 6-foot-3 point guard from Manhattan to look critically at himself, analyze what went wrong and what he could have done differently.
“It helped him mature a lot. He’s never watched as much film,” said Greg, a Turner Sports NBA analyst who played for the Knicks for four seasons from 1991-95. “He’s gone back and watched every game two or three times. We have him take notes, breaking film down. He’s learning how the game really functions.
“When you get to a point at this level where you’re breaking down plays and looking at all the different scenarios that played out, that was eye-opening for him. He’s grown a lot in that regard.”
Cole, 19, began the season viewed as a top-five pick, expected to lead North Carolina to a big year. Instead, the Tar Heels suffered their first losing season in 18 years. Cole missed seven weeks after arthroscopic knee surgery in December, the first surgery of his life, and his stock fell in part to his shooting struggles. He posted solid numbers, averaging 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.3 steals in 22 games for the last-place Tar Heels, but he shot just 38 percent overall from the field and 34.8 from 3-point range. He did play his best down the stretch, averaging 17.5 points, 4.5 assists and shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 36 percent from beyond the arc over his final 11 games.
His projections are all over the map, from a top-eight pick to going in the mid-teens. There is a chance Cole could wind up with the Knicks, the same team his dad played for, depending on where they wind up in this week’s draft lottery. They are in desperate need of a franchise point guard.
“I’d be happy for him. He would embrace it,” Greg said. “He’s from there, he was raised there. I like what they’ve done, front office-wise. I think [president] Leon [Rose] is going to do a really good job. I think [Tom Thibodeau] is an excellent coach. … Now he’s just back to being a basketball coach and I think he would be great to play for. Playing in New York is a little different. Not everybody’s accustomed to it. But he dealt with what that environment entails before.”
For now, Cole is just waiting to see what happens with the pre-draft process, if there will be a combine or the chance to work out in person for teams. He’s been working out with noted NBA trainer and former Knicks player development coordinator Chris Brickley and has yet to go on any Zoom calls with interested teams. In the meantime, he’s trying to use this past season as a learning tool.
“Ultimately, if he’s going to be able to achieve his goals at the next level, a lot of that will be because of what he went through last year,” Greg said. “He’s excited, he feels like he’s in a lot better place emotionally and mentally, and he’s much better player than he was four or five months ago.”
Rose will represent the Knicks at Thursday’s draft lottery that will be held virtually due to COVID-19 concerns. They have the sixth-best lottery odds with a 9 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick.