Top-Ranked Recruit Cole Anthony Learns He’s Not Invincible, and It Makes Him Work Harder
Though Cole Anthony is the No. 1 overall player in USA Today’s Chosen 25 for 2019 and the No. 2 player on the 2019 ESPN 100, he still hasn’t made a college commitment.
Some of the nation’s top programs, including the University of North Carolina and Georgetown University, are among his top choices, but the 6-foot-3 senior guard currently playing for Oak Hill Academy in Wilson, Virginia, is all about winning and winning now.
“We — me and my family — just want to see which college players are staying, who might have been thinking about declaring (for the NBA Draft),” the 18-year-old Anthony said of his prospective choices. “We want to be 100 percent sure I am able to join a team and contend for the Final Four immediately, if I’m lucky enough to be starting and I put in the work.”
Anthony, a crafty playmaker with a nose for attacking, is one of 12 players selected to play for USA Basketball in the 22nd annual Nike Hoop Summit on April 12 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. The game pits a team of U.S. high school senior stars against a world team. (Tickets)
A member of the USA Basketball team that won the gold medal at the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship, Anthony transferred from Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens, New York, after his junior season. At Oak Hill, he is teammates with Kofi Cockburn, a 2018 World Select Team member who is a likely candidate to match up opposite Anthony in the 2019 Nike Hoop Summit for his second stint on the international squad.
“That’s my boy,” Anthony said of Cockburn, a 6-foot-8, 255-pound center from Jamaica who has committed to the University of Illinois.
“Me and him have talked junk already,” Anthony said with a laugh. “He’s played in the game and lets me know it. He says the stage is awesome. He thinks he’s going to beat us. We think we’re going to beat him. That’s my boy. I’ve known him since the moment he came to the States. I’m happy I get to play with him.”
Anthony possesses a great first step as well as an otherworldly leaping ability. He says he feels blessed to have been selected for the Nike Hoop Summit.
“I’m one of just 12 kids in the whole country who were chosen to make this team, and I want to go out there and win,” he said. “I don’t want to let people down.”
He said he feels even more blessed to have won the U18 gold medal for USA Basketball last year. He has taken part in two USA Basketball Men's Junior National Team October minicamps at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. That experience, he said, was eye-opening, not just talent-wise, but physically, due to playing at altitude.
“When you get out to Colorado, one of the things most people don’t realize is you get out of breath really quick,” he said. “You feel it for sure.”
Anthony said taking care of his body has become an increasingly important point of focus. An ankle injury has limited him this season but has reinforced the value of day-in and day-out personal health accountability, especially with sleep.
“I’m still trying to get 100 percent healthy,” said Anthony.
He rated his recovery recently at 85-90 percent and does physical therapy for it practically every day. He also admits it’s not the worst thing that could have happened to him at this stage in his life.
“It definitely taught me that I’m not invincible,” he said. “Everyone thinks they are invincible until something happens. This is a wakeup call that shows me how to take care of my body.”
Anthony never had to reach far to find a basketball or desire. That was due to his dad Greg, an 11-year NBA veteran and now a broadcaster with CBS.
“My dad just wanted to say he made it out of the hood,” he said. “He just wanted to play in the NBA.
“I don’t have that specific drive. I have a different drive. I want to be one of the best basketball players who ever played in the NBA.”
Greg Anthony retired from the NBA when Cole was still a toddler, so Cole has virtually no recollection of those playing days. More than opening up pathways, though, his dad’s knowledge of the game has instilled an awareness and understanding that most players don’t develop until they’re much older.
“His knowledge of the game of basketball has helped me take my game to the next level,” Cole said. “It’s about being able to outwit your opponent, and having someone of my dad’s caliber helping me understand that is priceless, especially with me being such a basketball head.”
Cole is a big fan of LeBron James, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and interestingly enough, doesn’t look too much to past players just yet, because of the game’s constant evolution.
“I’m always open to knowledge,” he said, “but I try to focus on the current game because of how much it’s changed since when my dad played. Not taking anything away from their skill and talent, but it’s a different game nowadays.”
His family includes mom Crystal McCrary, along with four siblings. Like most teenagers, he enjoys video games, favoring Pokémon, and is a huge sneakerhead, with about 30 sets of kicks with him at school.
But when he really needs to decompress, he steps into the gym.
“Nothing clears my mind like getting shots,” he said. “When I’m on the court, I feel invincible.”
Taking time to recover from his ankle injury has made Anthony aware he is not invincible, however, and it has renewed his ambition to take advantage of every opportunity.
The next opportunity comes knocking at the Nike Hoop Summit.