Rising Son: Cole Anthony remains grounded as he follows his father’s footsteps

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It’s 10 a.m. on a muggy summer Sunday, the steam from last night’s rainstorm seeping in through the doors of an unair-conditioned fieldhouse at The Westtown School, and Cole Anthony’s ratty gray undershirt is already soaked through with sweat.

The 6-foot-3 Anthony, high school basketball’s version of Russell Westbrook and arguably the top prospect in the Class of 2019, is there for the PSA Cardinals’ combine, a one-day camp held on the final day of July’s second live period that college coaches can scout. He isn’t supposed to be playing. This was going to be his time off, a break between the grind that led up to Peach Jam and the insanity of a schedule that will take him from New York to Las Vegas to North Carolina to two different stops in California over the course of the next three weeks. He’ll be on the road for 18 out of 20 days, including 13 straight as he bounces from CP3’s camp to Steph Curry’s camp to the Nike Skills Academy.

But here he is, running through shooting drills, busting his ass defensively 1-on-1 and putting on a clinic in how to run ball-screens against players that are being recruited by high-major programs across the country and, at the same time, look out of place on a basketball court with Anthony.

This wasn’t a show put on for the coaches in attendance.

This is who Anthony is, who he has always been.

“His work ethic is on a level that’s unmatched for his age,” Terrance “Munch” Williams, who runs the PSA Cardinals program, said. “His mom could be Celie from The Color Purple and his dad could be Prop Joe from The Wire, it wouldn’t matter. He is who he is.”


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You don’t have to run in scouting circles that long to hear a player diagnosed with ‘four-car garage syndrome’.

The definition is self-explanatory: Kids that come from money tend to play a certain way that differs from kids that don’t. For many, basketball is a way out of whatever situation they are living in, and when you don’t need the sport to better your station in life, success may not be as important. That shows up on the court.

Cole Anthony has never wanted for anything. His father, Greg, played a decade in the NBA and has been a mainstay on basketball broadcasts for Turner and CBS since his retirement. His mother, Crystal McCrary-McGuire, is an author and a filmmaker with a law degree. His step-father, Ray McGuire, is a former basketball player at Harvard that has gone on to become the Global Head of Corporate and Investment Banking for Citigroup. His step-mother is a Duke-educated doctor with a dermatology practice.

It would have been easy for Cole to fall in with New York City’s elite, living a life that could be featured on an episode of ‘Gossip Girl.’

He didn’t.

His parents won’t even give him a credit card.

“The greatest compliment that I ever got about him,” Greg said, “people would tell me, ‘He plays like he’s hungry. He plays like he’s poor.'”

It’s a mentality that his family has worked hard to instill in him. Just because he’s lived in a household with means, just because he’s been exposed to a lifestyle that few people in the world get to see did not mean that he was going to be handed anything. Everything that he gets, he works for, from clothes and cell phones to on-court hours spent with a trainer.

There were no free rides.

“Everybody around Cole has worked for what they have,” McCrary-McGuire said. “Not that you have that many black people that are trust fund kids anyway, but whatever success we have achieved, we earned.”

“My parents raised me right,” Cole said. “They don’t hand any thing to me in life. What they do hand to me is knowledge.”

What has made that process easier as Cole’s profile has risen over the last couple of years is that there is no jockeying for influence over him and his future. Every adult in Cole’s life — be it his father, his mother, his high school coach, Munch — has a role to play and a job to do, and they do it. When I reached out about writing this story, I was told to call McCrary-McGuire. When Cole is asked about his recruitment or the timeline for a decision on where he will go to college, he says to talk to his dad. And while his dad is an NBA veteran that is paid handsomely to be a basketball expert on television, he doesn’t interfere with the way that Munch coaches or the way that Cole was deployed at Archbishop Molloy this season.

The best basketball teams are the ones where every player on the roster knows and buys into their role, a fitting analogy for the support system that Cole has behind him.

“We really do have a village around Cole, around our family, who are level-headed, sensible people who value the basics: kindness, family and education,” McCrary-McGuire said. And it’s rubbed off on Cole, who is the oldest of five siblings. His 15-year old sister is his best friend.  You’re more likely to see Leo, Cole’s five-year old brother from McCrary-McGuire’s second marriage, at one of his New York City workouts than not.

“When he’s with his younger siblings, he’s about their world,” Greg, who has two young children from his second marriage, said. “Video games, playing in the pool, if they want to go out and dribble, toss a football, do a puzzle. He genuinely enjoys their company, and that’s awesome to see.”

On Sunday, before he took his break to eat lunch, Cole spent 15 minutes talking with the 7th and 8th graders from the PSA Cardinal program. The group of six boys had spent the morning running water to the coaches sitting courtside or cleaning up the discarded bottles that are found in any gym where players are working out. He wanted to make sure they knew he cared, that he was there to help them if they needed it. He knows that his situation is not common, and he wants to help.

“Basically,” he said, “I just don’t want to be an asshole. That’s the only thing I’ve never wanted to do.”



Cole Anthony is a fascinating story in his own right.

He’s the son of a former NBA player and current broadcaster that has developed into one of the best high school basketball players in the country. He’s the Russell Westbrook of the EYBL, an uber-athletic 6-foot-3 guard that was named EYBL Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and EYBL MVP this past season. He’s a big-time scorer with a 43-inch vertical that rebounds the ball and competes on every possession. There’s a reason that every school in the country is going to try and recruit him, but it’s that recruitment that has taken the intrigue into New York City’s latest Point God to the next level.

Because, to date, Cole has provided next-to-nothing when it comes to hints about where he will be playing his college ball.

In June, he told reporters at a USA Basketball training camp that he will “obviously” be considering Kentucky. He told reporters at Peach Jam that he’s spoken to Bill Self a few times. As far as I can tell, that’s all that he’s said publicly about schools that are currently pursuing him.

“I don’t want to single anyone out,” he said.

The plan is to wait as long as possible, likely into the spring of his senior year, to ensure that the coach he ends up committing to will still be at the program when he enrolls. At one point in time, Anthony said, he was hung up on his recruitment, on where the offers were coming in from, what schools were recruiting him, what coaches watched him play, and he remembers his father telling him that it was pointless to worry that early in the process. The turnover in the college ranks is too much, a point, Cole says, that was exacerbated by the scandal that enveloped college basketball last season. Rick Pitino was fired by Louisville. There were doubts about whether Sean Miller would keep his job at Arizona throughout the season. Bill Self is under scrutiny at Kansas over the Jayhawks’ presence in the second round of charging documents the FBI released in April.

“There’s still a year left before I even have to go to college,” Cole said. “There’s a whole bunch that can happen.”

To figure out who is actively recruiting him, you have to read the tea leaves. Roy Williams (North Carolina) and Dana Altman (Oregon) were mainstays at his games at Peach Jam. Williams and an assistant coach were at The Westtown School on Sunday, as was Mike Brey (Notre Dame), Patrick Ewing (Georgetown) and John Beilein (Michigan), who were front row for Cole’s first workout of the day. St. John’s, Villanova and Pittsburgh all had assistant coaches at the event as well.

The most detail that Cole provided on a timeline to his recruitment was that he’s planning to sit down with his dad in mid-August to talk it through, but at this point, Anthony has yet to announce where he’s planning on playing his senior season in high school. He’ll be leaving Molloy for a prep school — sources told NBC Sports that he’s expected to end up at Oak Hill Academy — and the uncertainty has only heightened the interest.

“Right now, I don’t need the attention,” he said. “I get enough attention as it is, and honestly, it brings me more attention the less I say about it. People get more curious.”

“The limelight and all that comes with it has never been a priority or a concern for him,” Greg added. “He loves to play, he loves his friends, he loves to compete.”

“The thing about this game at the highest level, sometimes guys fall in love with the life. He’s in love with the game.”


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Before Anthony was a high school basketball sensation, before there was any talk of the NBA or one-and-done or even college hoops, he was the gap-toothed, chubby-cheeked 11-year old star of ‘Little Ballers’, a documentary about AAU basketball on Nickelodean.

“I’m happiest in the world,” he said, his navy blue polo shirt buttoned all the way up, hugging a giraffe pillow pet, “when I’m playing basketball, and I want to go to the NBA and do it for the rest of my life.”

That was the first his mother, who produced the film, heard him say that.

“I had never had that conversation with him,” she said.

Right around that same time, after a little league baseball game, Cole told father he was done playing other sports. He just wanted to play basketball, which, in a way, Greg had always expected — Cole is, after all, the son of an NBA player — but the decision still surprised him. At the time, Cole just wasn’t all that good at the sport.

But that quickly changed.

Cole had always been intense and competitive. When he was young, he used to count the number of cheerios that were in his bowl to make sure his sister didn’t get more than him. When he was three, he lost his first race — to a nine-year old — and was inconsolable. He would get mad and aggressive playing youth sports. He didn’t understand the concept of a referee, or why that man with a whistle was able to call a foul and stop the game.

He just wanted to win, and that wasn’t always easy for his parents to deal with.

“Cole is this alpha male dude,” McCrary-McGuire said. “He was a lot. I joke about it now, but at the time it wasn’t all that funny.”

“I used to joke,” Greg said, “all those things that are a pain in the ass for us right now, they are really going to serve him well later in life.”

They have.

Basketball became the outlet, his competitiveness being all the motivation he needed.

“Cole is his own worst critic,” McCrary-McGuire said.

“It’s personal for him,” Greg said.

And as much as his parents would like to take credit for that, this is something that Cole was born with. They challenge him. When Cole says he wants to be the best, they ask him if he’s done everything in his power that day — that week, that month, that year — to reach that goal. When he says he wants to workout with Chris Brickley, trainer to many of the NBA’s biggest stars, he’s the one that has to make the call and schedule the appointment and get there on time.

But the truth is that it probably wouldn’t matter.

“You try to teach your kids good values and work ethic, but I think the individual has to take the ownership,” Greg said. “I give him a lot of credit. That’s who he is. If he has a goal, he really works towards it. Basketball is something he’s passionate about.”

“I think you’re always proud when your child has a passion for something and they have the opportunity to excel at it. So that part is really rewarding.”

But it also may have backfired.

Far as I can tell, the biggest point of contention between Greg and Cole has to do with a game that was played three or four years ago. It was the last time that the two played 1-on-1, and to hear Greg tell it, the game was tied at point when his hamstrings flared up and his Achilles’ were swollen and he had to leave the court.

“I was in pain,” he said, a smirk peaking out from under the black Nike hat pulled down over his face as he made sure to note that the last time the pair played, Cole did not win. “I could have finished, but I’m a big golfer, and I was thinking to myself, ‘If I get a significant injury, I’m off the course for a while.'”

Cole?

He’s not buying it.

“I beat him,” he said. “The game was not tied. I was winning. It was a couple games we played, and those games I won. He copped out.”

Because he was hurt or because he knew he was about to lose?

“He knew. Did he say I lost?”

No.

“Just that I didn’t win?”

Yup.

“There you go.”

That game was four years ago.

And Cole will be talking about it for the next 40.

Georgia lands 2019 guard Jaykwon Walton

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It’s been a busy August for Jaykwon Walton.

Nine days after committing to Mississippi State and seven days after de-committing from the Bulldogs, the four-star guard in the class of 2019 committed to Georgia and first-year coach Tom Crean on Monday.

Walton currently lives in Montgomery, Ala., but spent much of his life in Columbus, Ga. He committed to Ben Howland’s program on Aug. 11, but backed off that decision just two days later. Now, just a week later, he’s slated to join Crean’s Bulldogs instead.

The 6-foot-6 guard is a consensus top-75 player in his class. He averaged 19.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists last year as a junior at Carver-Montgomery High School.

“He is a tremendous player and a tremendous kid,” Carver coach James Jackson previously told 247 Sports. “I told him today that he’s been all over the world this year and has really played well. He always does what is asked of him and is a great kid in the classroom, too. He is an amazing athlete that is really humble and is a very grounded kid.

“When you watch him, it is like looking at a mirror of (former NBA player and current Memphis coach) Penny Hardaway in his younger days. Jaykwon can play any position on the court and can defend any position on the court. He has tremendous ability to create and can handle the ball well. He rebounds well and being 6-6, 6-7, he has that range that you want. He’s a great kid to coach and a kid that does everything well.”

Walton is Crean’s first commitment in the 2019 class.

Four-star center Kadin Shedrick commits to Virginia

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Tony Bennett has secured a second top-100 commit in his 2019 recruiting class.

Kadin Shedrick, a four-star recruit, pledged to Virginia on Monday, he announced via social media.

Shedrick chooses Virginia over a recently-trimmed list of Florida, Indiana, Louisville, Providence, Wake Forest, Wisconsin and Xavier. He visited the Musketeers and Demon Deacons before making an unofficial to Charlottesville over the weekend, apparently showing him all he needed to see.

“Virginia is a place where I can develop my basketball game greatly. They have a great track record of developing players,” Shedrick told 247Sports. “”They have a winning traditional as well, and I think that’s very important.”

Shedrick is a 6-foot-10 center that is a consensus top-100 prospect. He joins Casey Morsell, a top-75 guard from Washington, D.C., in Bennett’s 2019 class. Virginia has gotten the commitment of just one four-star prospect in the last two recruiting classes after securing the talents of four such players in 2016.

Baylor’s Jake Lindsey out for season after hip surgery

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Jake Lindsey’s senior season is going to be delayed a year.

The Baylor guard will miss the upcoming season after undergoing hip surgery, he announced Sunday.

“I will be redshirting this season as I recover from hip surgery,” Lindsey wrote on Twitter. “I can’t wait to help the team this year in a different role as I recover. I want to say thank you to everyone who has been helping me in this time, whether you know it or not.”

The 6-foot-5 guard has averaged more than 20 minutes per game the last two seasons as a 3-point shooting specialist and distributor. He averaged just 4.5 points per game last season, but dished out 3.4 assists while shooting 34.1 percent from distance (down from 40.4 percent as a sophomore). He will have one season of eligibility remaining in 2019-20 after sitting out this season.

Lindsey, whose father Dennis is the general manager of the Utah Jazz, battled the hip injury throughout much of last season, but did not miss any games as a result. His loss will be acute for the Bears, who lost four seniors off last year’s No. 1 seed NIT team including point guard Manu Lecomte.

Five Takeaways from Duke’s Canada Exhibitions

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Just like Kentucky did two weeks ago, the Duke Blue Devils spent last week traveling abroad to play in exhibition games that were televised.

Kentucky went south, heading to the Bahamas.

Duke made the trip up north so that Canadian R.J. Barrett would have a chance to play in front of his home crowd.

And while it was a little bit easier to see what Kentucky will have a chance to be this season — we’ll get into why that is later — we did get our first chance to see what Duke could look like.

Here are the four things that we learned:

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R.J. BARRETT IS THE TRUTH, BUT ZION WILLIAMSON SHOULD LIVE UP TO THE HYPE

At this point, everyone should know more or less what R.J. Barrett is.

He was the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2018 despite the fact that he reclassified last summer. (He turned 18 this summer, meaning that he is enrolling in college in what would be considered the normal year.) There is a long way to go still, but he is thought to be head and shoulders above the rest of the field when it comes to the race for the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. Last summer, he put 38 points, 13 boards and six assists on the USA team at the U-19 World Cup, which became first time since 2011 that USA Basketball was not the reigning champion at any age group in international competition.

Put another way, seeing Barrett steamroll a bunch of Canadian college basketball players should not be surprising if you know what he did against a team that included the likes of Carsen Edwards, Kevin Huerter, P.J. Washington and Romeo Langford, not to mention Barrett’s current Duke teammate, Cam Reddish. In three games, he averaged 30.7 points, 8.0 boards and 5.0 assists.

What was more eye-opening was the way that Zion Williamson played.

Williamson is college basketball’s first superstar of the internet age. His other-worldly athleticism has turned him into a social media machine. He has 1.7 million followers on Instagram. There are YouTube channels that have sprung to life simply because they were able to post his high school dunk. When he was a junior in high school, Drake wore his jersey. Every teenage basketball fan knows who he is.

The question about Williamson has long been whether or not he is more than just an athlete. He never left his local South Carolina high school, which is why those viral videos of him dunking often looked like he was playing against, well, me. He played on the Adidas circuit in high school, which is good but is not at the same level as the EYBL. I’m not sure there is a person on the planet that can match his explosiveness and quickness while checking in at 6-foot-7 and 285 pounds, as Duke lists him, but the question about his potential as a pro has always been what will happen when he is not longer on another planet athletically.

And at the risk of overreacting to three exhibition games against overmatched competition, I am much more bullish on him as a prospect today than I was a week ago.

There are three reasons for that:

  1. Williamson has a higher basketball IQ and is a better passer than I realized. It’s the little moments that give it away: finding a shooter after an offensive rebound, seeing a backdoor cut even if the pass he threw was not good enough to get the assist, the outlet passes he would throw to streaking guards before he even landed after grabbing a defensive rebound. He reads the game.
  2. He’s underrated as a ball-handler. He’s also hardly a finished product there, but he has good enough handle that he can be a sensation as a grab-and-go big in transition and will be able to beat bigger (well, slower, he’s pretty big) defenders off the bounce. That’s key because his shooting still needs work.
  3. He just plays so damn hard. When someone his size with his leaping ability decides that they want to go and get a rebound, how are you going to stop him? And while things like handle or shooting or defensive positioning can be taught, ‘motor’ cannot.

Williamson probably could stand to lose 20 or 25 pounds*, which will likely also help with him improving on his conditioning; he seemed to tire for stretches in these exhibitions, which is understandable considering the load he and Barrett carried and the fact that, you know, he is 285 pounds. And that jumper needs some consistency.

But those are fairly easy problems to fix, all things considered.

Which is why I think Williamson is going to come much closer to living up to the hype than I did before this trip.

*(The “Zion is fine at 285” crowd annoys me. Yes, he’ll be just fine playing at 285 pounds or whatever he is. But if he’s able to do all of this while carrying baby weight around, imagine what he’ll do once he streamlines his body.)

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DUKE’S DEPTH IS GOING TO BE AN ISSUE

Duke had a bunch of injuries on this trip.

I know.

Cam Reddish didn’t play. Tre Jones didn’t play. Alex O’Connell lasted all of three minutes in the first game before fracturing a bone in his face. That’s three of Duke’s top six players heading into next season.

The problem?

Without those three, Duke was forced to start the likes of Jack White, Antonio Vrankovic and Jordan Goldwire in lineups that included both Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden. I expect White will play a larger role this season because, if nothing else, he’s going to be one of the best shooters on the roster and can play a forward spot. Goldwire is fine as a point guard off the bench, I guess, and Vrankovic is big enough and serviceable enough to play emergency minutes.

Those guys are fine for the end of the bench, but the problem that will arise is that “the end of Duke’s bench” looks like it is going to start with the eighth man.

And that’s assuming that Marques Bolden becomes a trusted part of Coach K’s rotation. In the three exhibitions in Canada, Bolden played a total of just 39 minutes, missing all three of his shot attempts without taking a single free throw while grabbing all of nine rebounds.

My guess?

Duke plays the majority of this season with a six-man rotation, using O’Connell off the bench to spell whoever needs a rest and allowing Williamson to play the five when Javin DeLaurier needs a blow.

Depth is something that I think is overrated in college basketball given how many TV timeouts there are during a game. Villanova has won two of the last three national titles despite using rotations that end at seven guys. Syracuse routinely makes runs in March with teams that have just five or six guys that see minutes. It’s great to have 13 players on scholarship that can contribute, but only five of them can see the floor at a time. When your best players are going to get 30-35 minutes a night, having too many guys that deserve to play can lead to discontentment.

So I’m not sure this is going to cripple Duke’s season.

But in a sport where titles are won in one-game knockout tournaments, a poorly-timed sprained ankle or some simple foul trouble can be a killer.

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THIS TEAM IS GOING TO BE SO MUCH FUN TO WATCH

If there is one thing that we can learn from the way that Duke played in Canada, it’s that this team is likely going to play fast, fast, fast.

I’m not sure there will be any player in the college basketball this year that can grab-and-go the way that Barrett and Williamson can, and that’s before you even factor in that Reddish — a silky 6-foot-8 wing — will be able to do the same thing, and that Tre Jones will actually be the point guard on this roster.

Imagine being an opposing point guard and seeing Barrett or Williamson come at you with a full head of steam in transition. That’s nightmare fuel.

This group is also switchable defensively, and I’ve been told that they have already been tinkering with lineups that allow Williamson to play the five, a la the ‘Death Lineup’ that the Golden State Warriors roll out with Draymond Green playing center.

There is a lot to like about this group, but that leads me to my single-biggest concern about this team …

… DUKE IS GOING TO HAVE TO FIND SHOOTING SOMEWHERE

Part of the reason I think Duke is going to be a transition-heavy team is that they have the players to thrive in that kind of a system.

But I also think that it will partly be by necessity, as Duke has a roster that is loaded with perimeter talent without having all that much perimeter shooting.

Put another way, Villanova made small-ball work for them last season because every single player in their top six was a lethal three-point shooter. Golden State makes it work because they have three of the greatest shooters in the history of the sport on the roster.

Barrett? The biggest knock on him as a prospect is that he is an inconsistent shooter, and that was backed up by a 6-for-21 (28%) performance in Canada. The same thing can be said about Williamson, who shot 3-for-9 (33%) from three on the trip, and one of his three makes was a ball that bricked off the back of the rim, hit the backboard and happened to drop in. Reddish and Jones are both guys that can make threes, but they are probably better described as scorers more than shooters.

Throw in someone like a DeLaurier or a Bolden, and suddenly the paint gets awfully clogged.

I currently have Duke sitting at No. 4 in the NBC Sports Preseason Top 25 — behind Kansas, Gonzaga and Kentucky — because of those question marks from beyond the arc.

This trip did nothing to alleviate those concerns.

VIDEO: Duke’s Zion Williamson takes flight in final exhibition win

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Duke played this trip short-handed and against competition that wasn’t exactly overwhelming, but the Blue Devils still looked pretty impressive steam-rolling the teams they did play.

And while I say “the Blue Devils”, I really mean Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett. Barrett is widely considered the better prospect, but Williamson was the one that put on a show all weekend, and today’s game against McGill was no different.