Cole Anthony stars in North Carolina debut

Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images
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As Cole Anthony took the floor Wednesday in his collegiate debut, it looked as though the potential top pick in the 2020 NBA draft was going to make a fashion statement.

Ultimately, though, the Mikan-esque corrective lenses he wore – and later ditched – weren’t what left the biggest impression of the night. It was his game.

The son of UNLV great and 11-year NBA vet Greg Anthony, the North Carolina freshman exploded for 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in the Tar Heels’ season-opening 76-65 win over Notre Dame to start both the season and ACC play 1-0.

It was a virtuoso performance for a player that was in the mix for being the top-rated prospect in the 2019 class, but has found himself less a part of the national conversation this preseason than his counterparts like James Wiseman at Memphis or RJ Hampton, who opted not to even play college basketball.

Anthony’s entire repertoire was on display against the Irish, who could do little to contain him all evening. He was 12 of 24 overall from the floor and 6 of 11 from 3-point range. He created for others. He got the Tar Heels going in transition with 11 defensive boards.

Simply put, he was dynamic.

The only issue for Anthony was his four turnovers, but given how much responsibility there is on him offensively to initiate the offense, get others involved and score it himself, that’s not that bad of number in 37 minutes. Especially when it’s the first 37 minutes of his career.

It was a game reminiscent of some of the breakout games we’ve seen from the best freshmen in recent years. Remember Trae Young’s 43 against Oregon two years ago or Zion Williamson’s 28 and seven in his debut against Kentucky last year? It’s not much of a leap of faith to think we’ll be talking about Anthony’s first-ever college game in that same vein.

It was a declaration of intent.

Cole Anthony is here, and he’s coming for the ACC. Along with the rest of college basketball.

He’s uniquely situated as a 6-foot-3, playmaking lead guard for a top-10 team to make a dent in college basketball. Maybe he’s not going to be the cultural phenomenon that both Young and Williamson were, but going for 34, 11 and five in your first-ever college game against a strong ACC program is a pretty good indication that Anthony is going to be awesome this season.

Honestly, it’s too bad he decided to toss the glasses he started the game wearing. Making rec specs cool might have been the true test of Anthony’s talent and appeal.

Although, there’s a notable precedence for a guy flipping of his glasses and becoming super.