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Sixers draft candidate Cole Anthony is frustrated but determined to show he’s an elite player

Suddenly, the former projected 2020 draft headliner is instead expected to be a late-first-round selection Wednesday.

North Carolina's Cole Anthony still has a lot to prove to NBA teams.
North Carolina's Cole Anthony still has a lot to prove to NBA teams.Read moreJared C. Tilton / Getty Images File

Cole Anthony is frustrated.

The son of former NBA player Greg Anthony was the nation’s top high school point guard in the class of 2019.

He was projected to be a top-five pick in this NBA draft before beginning his lone season at North Carolina a year ago. But things didn’t go as planned at UNC: He suffered a partially torn meniscus in his right knee amid team struggles and rumors of his being a bad teammate.

Suddenly, the former projected 2020 draft headliner is expected to be a late-first-round selection Wednesday.

“It frustrates me every single day, every single day since the season ended," Anthony said Friday during an NBA predraft media Zoom call. "During the season, it was super frustrating, especially not being able to be healthy and be out there. That was more frustrating.

“I just got to come into this with a chip on my shoulder. I’m not in an ideal position, but all my dreams, all my goals are still ahead of me.”

The 20-year-old realizes he’s still able to accomplish everything he wants to on the court. To him, that’s a blessing he’s happy about.

Anthony’s plummeting stock could lead to his being available when the Sixers select 21st overall. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder recently had a Zoom call with the Sixers brass.

“It was good, really good,” he said of the meeting with the team that’s projected to select him in several mock drafts.

Greg Anthony and Sixers coach Doc Rivers were New York Knicks teammates for a little over two seasons in the early 1990s. Anthony was asked what it would mean to be coached by one of his father’s former teammates.

“Shoot, forget him being one of my father’s former teammates,” he said. “That’s a great coach right there. So being coached by someone like Doc Rivers, who’s an NBA champion, that’d be legendary right there. You can’t ask for much more than that.”

The Sixers need a secondary ballhandler and shooter. Anthony could take some of the ballhandling duties from All-Star point guard Ben Simmons and provide scoring.

“I think I would fit in really well with them, just playing with Ben Simmons," Anthony said, "being another guard who can rebound, who could also shoot, create his own shot.

“Then not only create his own shot, create for others, whether it’s hitting Ben in transition ... or just being in the pick-and-roll situation with Joel.”

But the main question is: How will he fit in the locker room?

Word has been circulating around the NBA that Anthony was a bad teammate at UNC. He has been asked about in nearly every interview with NBA teams.

“It’s very much false,” Anthony said. “But if you base it off my play, because I made a lot of bad decisions. Yeah, you might think I’m a bad teammate. But I respect your opinion, but I have to respectfully say it’s wrong. It’s incorrect."

He described himself as super supportive and added that he wants to see his teammates succeed as much as he wants to succeed.

“I don’t know where the narrative comes from,” Anthony said. “But shoot, it is what it is.”

His lone season at Carolina was a struggle in regard to wins and losses and staying healthy.

The Tar Heels went 14-19, finishing in the bottom half of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

However, Anthony displayed his elite scoring ability along with grit on both ends of the floor.

It didn’t take him long to make his mark, finishing with34 points and six three-pointers as the Tar Heels defeated Notre Dame in his college debut. Following his lead, UNC started out 6-1, including victories over the Irish, Alabama, and Oregon.

But he cooled off once he began to experience right knee pain while Carolina competed against Alabama, Michigan, and Oregon in a tournament in the Bahamas.

After consecutive losses to Ohio State and Virginia, it was obvious something was seriously wrong. On Dec. 16, eight days after facing Virginia, Anthony had arthroscopic surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus.

He didn’t return to action until the Tar Heels' loss to Boston College on Feb. 1, scoring 26 points in 26 minutes off the bench.

Despite missing 11 games, Anthony led UNC in scoring and assists (4.0 per game.) His scoring average (18.5) was second-highest in program history by a freshman. The 20-year-old garnered a spot on the ACC all-freshman team and was third-team all-ACC.

Now, he’s determined to show he’s the same guy who was projected to be top-five pick a year ago. He talked about where he sees himself for his second contract.

“I think, realistically," he said, "by that time I can be earning a max contract.”