When it comes to basketball, it’s hard to outdo Michael Jordan. During his collegiate career at the University of North Carolina and his 1,072 NBA games with the Bulls and Wizards, His Airness did just about everything imaginable. Don’t tell that to UNC freshman Cole Anthony, though.
On Wednesday night, the guard made his college debut and stepped into the history books. In his first NCAA game, he outperformed the greatest basketball player of all time.
Cole Anthony’s road to UNC
Cole Anthony has basketball in his blood. He’s the son of Greg Anthony, who played collegiate ball at UNLV before moving on to the NBA. Cole started honing his game on the AAU circuit; when the time came for high school, he suited up for Archbishop Molloy in Queens, New York.
Anthony spent three seasons there before moving to the famous Oak Hill Academy, which has produced the likes of Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony, for his senior year. The guard exploded, averaging over 17 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists a night; he was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game and Nike Hoop Summit, in addition to sharing the award at the Jordan Brand Classic.
Anthony received offers from UNC, Georgetown, Miami, Oregon, and Notre Dame; he would choose the Tar Heels and moved south to Chapel Hill.
Cole Anthony’s historic debut
On Wednesday night, Cole Anthony stepped onto the floor for the first time as an ACC player. While he could have easily been overwhelmed by the occasion, the guard looked at home in powder blue.
Anthony played 37 minutes on the night, pouring in 34 points. He shot 12-24 from the floor, including 6-11 on three-pointers; the guard also pulled down 11 rebounds, all on the defensive end, and added five assists.
“Sometimes, I used to say, Tyler Hansbrough carried us,” head coach Roy Williams said after the game. “Cole Anthony carried us tonight. … That was pretty impressive, to say the least.”
Outdoing Michael Jordan
Cole Anthony’s UNC debut wasn’t just an impressive offensive performance. It was historic.
The guard’s 34 points were the most ever scored by UNC freshman in his debut, outdoing Michael Jordan, Antawn Jamison, James Worthy, and every other Tar Heel. Anthony also set the ACC record for the most points by a freshman in his collegiate debut; given the conference’s history, that’s no small feat.
For all of the history, however, Anthony kept things low key after the game. “It’s cool, I’m going to — not celebrate, but be happy about it a little bit tonight, give myself a little pat on the back,” he explained. “But we’ve got practice tomorrow. We’ve got to lock back in. We’ve got a game on Friday.”
Cole Anthony’s key to success
While Wednesday night wasn’t the first time that Cole Anthony dominated a game, there was something different about this performance.
The guard usually wears glasses off the court and started the game wearing a pair of prescription goggles. The eyewear affected his depth perception, however, so Anthony removed them early in the contest. “When I took those off, something clicked,” Anthony told reporters.
While something like that may seem insignificant, finding his comfort levels—both in terms of eyewear and more generally on the court—will only help Anthony in the long run. He clearly has the talent and, on Wednesday night, he proved he can play at the collegiate level. Now he just has to keep the ball rolling.