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.

Saturday’s Things To Know: Huge wins for UNC, Kansas, Indiana

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PLAYER OF THE DAY: Juwan Morgan, Indiana

Juwan Morgan really loves playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

A year after setting his career-high by scoring 34 points in a win over Notre Dame in the Crossroads Classic, Morgan broke that record by dropping 35 points as No. 25 Indiana won their fourth-straight one-possession game, picking off Butler, 71-68.

Rob Phinisee is going to be the guy that makes all of the highlight reels after this game — we’ll get to that in a minute — but Morgan was the hero for Indiana. They’re no where near a position to be able to win this game at the buzzer if Morgan doesn’t keep this thing close. Butler controlled the game for 35 minutes. They led by as many as 11 points. They were up by two or three possessions for the majority of the second half, but Morgan did just enough to keep Indiana connected.

Butler was never able to pull away, and in the end, that is what cost them the game.

TEAM OF THE DAY: Belmont Bruins

The Bruins of Nashville paid a visit to the Bruins of Westwood and left with a 74-72 victory. They did this despite trailing by 12 points in the second half and while their star forward Dylan Windler spent much of the afternoon struggling with the length and athleticism of UCLA’s frontline. And given what we know about this UCLA program, it should surprise exactly no one that the Bruins lost this game because they got beat on a backdoor cut.

This was another in a long line of bad losses for the Pac-12 this season. While Washington was smoked by No. 13 Virginia Tech and Utah was embarrassed by No. 19 Kentucky, the good news here is that the weekend wasn’t a total loss. No. 20 Arizona State found a way to beat Georgia after trailing by 14 while Stanford overcame a big first half deficit against Eastern Washington in Palo Alto.

ONIONS OF THE DAY: Robert Phinisee, Indiana

Also known as the new Big Shot Bob:

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST WINNERS

NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels picked up a massive win over No. 4 Gonzaga, a win that this program really needed after a disappointing run through the non-conference portion of their schedule. We spent quite a bit of time on that game already today, so read that here.

KENTUCKY: The Wildcats looked like they had a point to prove on Saturday. After seeing one of their teammates transfer out of the program and after dealing with a week where everyone was talking about why this group was so overrated, whether or not John Calipari can still win with the one-and-done model and if Kentucky has lost their edge, the Wildcats came out and whipped up on poor Utah, their first impressive performance of the season. They won 88-61, and it will be interesting to see where this team goes from here.

MISSISSIPPI STATE: The Bulldogs landed a really important home win over Cincinnati, 70-59, in one of their only relevant non-conference games this season. Mississippi State is now 9-1 on the season — tied for the best record in the SEC — but this may be their best win to date, depending on how you feel about victories over St. Mary’s, at Dayton and Clemson. If Ben Howland is going to get this group to the NCAA tournament, this was a game he needed.

SATURDAY’S BIGGEST LOSERS

BUTLER: In a game they really, really needed to win, Butler dominated Indiana for 35 minutes, held Romeo Langford in check and blew up Indiana’s last-second play … before watching Phinisee’s game-winner go in. The Bulldogs are now 7-3 on the season with losses to Indiana, Saint Louis and Dayton. In a Big East where there may not actually be a good win available, this is a bad spot to be in. A trip to Florida on Dec. 29th is suddenly a critical game.

GEORGIA: Tom Crean is not going to be happy about the way that this one ended. The Bulldogs led by as many as 18 points in the first half against No. 20 Arizona State and still somehow managed to find a way to lose, 76-74, at home despite Arizona State’s late-game execution being horrendous.

UAB: UAB had a chance to get a signature win on Saturday evening, and they couldn’t put it away. Jared Harper scored 23 of No. 8 Auburn’s last 30 points as the Tigers outlasted UAB in overtime, 75-71. This could have been a season-defining win for the Blazers. Now it is a warning for Bruce Pearl’s team that they cannot expect to sleepwalk through the season and win the games they want to win.

SYRACUSE: We thought the Orange had gotten things figured out after landing a come-from-behind win over Georgetown last Saturday, but it turns out we were wrong. The Orange let B.J. Stith score all 18 of his points in the second half as they lost to Old Dominion in the Carrier Dome, 68-62. The Orange are now 7-3 on the season with losses to ODU, UConn and Oregon. Not good.

FINAL THOUGHT

There are nine teams that are still undefeated this season.

Some of them are simply a product of scheduling (Houston, St. John’s) while some of them are good mid-majors that went out and won a buy game or two (Buffalo, Furman). There are a couple of true national title contenders that remain unblemished (Virginia, Michigan) and a third (Texas Tech) that is more dangerous this season than anyone realizes.

And then there is Kansas, and there is Nevada.

I cannot figure out either of these teams.

We’ve been over the issues that are plaguing Kansas this season. I wrote 1,000 words on them right here. No Udoka Azubuike is forcing Dedric Lawson to play in a position that is not his best when Kansas doesn’t actually have a player to fill the ideal role for Lawson, and all of that is happening as Quentin Grimes is struggling to find his footing and the rest of the Kansas perimeter attack is … well, it’s just Lagerald Vick.

The Jayhawks have not looked dominant for a full 40 minutes yet this season — they struggle to put together an entire half — and they could have three or four losses at this point in the year.

But they’re 9-0.

Is this a good thing (good teams win when they play bad, and Kansas will figure it out) or is this something that we should be very, very worried about (at some point, this is going to catch up with them).

And then there is Nevada, who has trailed at the half in three of their last four games after turning a 40-33 halftime deficit into a 72-68 win over South Dakota State. They haven’t really beaten anyone that matters — winning at Loyola and at USC isn’t impressive, although the win over Arizona State in LA will carry some weight on Selection Sunday — and we might not see them play an NCAA tournament team again until the NCAA tournament.

But there is also something to be said for a team full of veterans struggling to get up for the dregs of non-conference play when classes are done and they’re just thinking about holiday break.

So we’ll see what happens with both of these teams, but even their most avid supporters should admit that their team isn’t playing great right now.

No. 8 Auburn outlasts UAB 75-71 in overtime

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Jared Harper scored 23 of Auburn’s last 30 points and finished with 31 to help the No. 8 Tigers outlast UAB 75-71 in overtime Saturday night in the Mike Slive Invitational.

In front of a crowd of 15,856, the budding in-state rivals raced to the overtime finish via the 3-point arc. After Harper scored 12 of the Tigers’ last 15, UAB’s Jeremiah Bell hit a pair of triples in the final 40 seconds, including a contested shot with 10 seconds left to send the contest to overtime. Bell finished with 13 points. Guard Jalen Perry led the Blazers (6-4) with 18 points on 6-for-13 shooting.

Chuma Okeke added 11 points for Auburn (9-1).

Harper took over in the overtime period, scoring or assisting on 25 of Auburn’s final 32 points. That streak began midway through the second half when Harper converted on a coast-to-coast lay-in. The basket tied the game after UAB led by as many as seven in the half.

“We’ve got Jared Harper and they don’t,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “That happens a lot of the time against a lot of people. We have him and they don’t.”

BIG PICTURE

UAB

Saturday marked the 21st meeting in the series since UAB began playing basketball 40 years ago. Auburn leads 11-10. Pearl said postgame that the teams are in talks about possibly renewing a contract to play yearly.

AUBURN

Forward Danjel Purifoy played in his first game since March 8, 2017, after sitting out all last season due to eligibility concerns. After serving a nine-game suspension this year, he scored two points and had one rebound in seven minutes.

No. 18 Mississippi State beats Cincinnati 70-59

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STARKVILLE, Miss. — Quinndary Weatherspoon and Lamar Peters scored 14 points each, Reggie Perry and Tyson Carter both added 12, and No. 18 Mississippi State beat Cincinnati 70-59 on Saturday night.

Mississippi State (9-1) used a 7-0 run midway through the second half — holding the Bearcats scoreless for more than four minutes — to break a tie game and take a 52-45 lead.

The Bulldogs were able to keep a fairly comfortable advantage the rest of the way. Mississippi State shot 12 of 23 (52 percent) from 3-point range. Peters added nine assists.

Perry came off the bench to score 10 points in the first half, giving Mississippi State some much-needed offense after starting forward Abdul Ado picked up two quick fouls. The 6-foot-10 freshman was a McDonald’s All-American and has quickly earned an increased role with his ability to score both inside and outside.

Mississippi State hit 7 of 12 3-pointers in the first half to take a 37-32 halftime lead.

Cincinnati (9-2) had its nine-game winning streak snapped. The Bearcats never looked comfortable offensively and shot just 37 percent from the field.

Jarron Cumberland led Cincinnati with 21 points. Keith Williams added 15.

BIG PICTURE

Cincinnati: The Bearcats had some good moments but couldn’t generate much offense when they needed it during the final 10 minutes. They scored 27 points in the second half.

Mississippi State: It’s another quality win for the Bulldogs, who have won six straight. Perry’s continued development is a big plus for Mississippi State. Peters continues to play very well with his combination of scoring and floor vision.

No. 13 Virginia Tech holds off Washington 73-61

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Nikell Alexander-Walker scored 24 points to lead No. 13 Virginia Tech to a 73-61 victory over Washington on Saturday night in the Air Force Reserve Boardwalk Classic.

Justin Thomas, Kerry Blackshear and Ahmed Hill each added 10 points for the Hokies (9-1), who won their fourth straight. They led by 18 points at halftime.

Matisse Thybulle scored 16 points to lead Washington (7-4), which pulled within seven points with nine minutes left but couldn’t get any closer. David Crisp scored 12 points, and Naz Carter had 11 points and a game-high nine rebounds.

The Huskies (7-4) pulled within seven points with nine minutes left in regulation but couldn’t sustain the comeback.

Virginia Tech shot 42.9 percent from the field and a swarming defense limited Washington to 35.6 percent while forcing 15 turnovers.

No. 20 Sun Devils rally from 18 down to beat Georgia 76-74

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ATHENS, Ga. — Remy Martin scored 21 points, Romello White added 16 and No. 20 Arizona State rallied from an 18-point deficit to beat Georgia 76-74 on Saturday night.

Martin gave the Sun Devils (8-1) their first lead of the game with a baseline jumper to make it 71-70 with 2:43 remaining.

Rayshaun Hammonds and Tyree Crump each scored 19 points for Georgia (5-4). Nicolas Claxton had nine points and 13 rebounds, but the Bulldogs, looking for their first signature win under coach Tom Crean, were undone by 10 turnovers that led to 12 Arizona State points in the second half.

Tye Fagan’s reverse layup put Georgia back ahead with 25 seconds remaining, but Luguentz Dort beat Claxton off the dribble to make it 75-74 with 11 seconds to go.

The victory was a strong comeback for Arizona State, which lost last week to No. 6 Nevada in Los Angeles.

Dort intercepted a long inbound pass from Jordan Harris before the Bulldogs’ last chance to win fell short on Claxton’s air-ball 16-footer.

Crump had 16 points in the first half, his best move coming on a feed from Claxton. Cutting through the lane, Crump took the pass, paused quickly to wait for a defender to clear and laid the ball off the glass for a nine-point lead.

He followed with consecutive 3s before hitting four of five free throws on a single possession. Arizona State coach Bobby Hurley was called for a technical foul after Dort bumped him on a 3-point attempt, and Crump closed a 20-3 run to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead at 18.

White, a sophomore from Wheeler High School in suburban Atlanta, was the only player in the double figures in the first half for Arizona State.

BIG PICTURE

Arizona State: The Sun Devils gave a strong indication of their depth as Dort, their leading scorer, was just 2 for 10 from the field and finished with 10 points. Seven of his points came on free throws. … Martin was 0 for 3 beyond the arc. … Cheatam had 10 rebounds.

Georgia: Hammonds, who fouled out with 4:41 remaining, scored 14 points in the opening 20 minutes. He gave Georgia a 42-29 lead with a crossover dribble down the lane and a spin move that brought a roar from the crowd. … Crump hit a 3 to give the Bulldogs a 70-64 lead, but he wasn’t a factor late, going 1 for 4 in the second half.