That’s what it was like for the thousands of fans packed into the Smith Center on Friday night when that one particular platform, a new part of player introductions, began to ascend. When the smoke cleared and that one particular 6-foot-3 freshman stood, arms raised upward, with the PA announcer booming his name. That’s what it was like when that particular point guard, the next in a line of Carolina greats spanning decades, walked down the makeshift catwalk, milking the spotlight by strutting and dancing to the crowd’s roars, egging them on.
That’s what it was like when Cole Anthony, the top point guard in the nation, was formally introduced to the Smith Center and its Carolina blue sea of fans on Friday night.
It was a boisterous welcome for a boisterous player, whose highlight reels and wowing performances follow him wherever he goes. A human highlight on and off the court, he’s not one to shy away from giving fans what they want: a show, and a good one at that.
That’s just how he is — brimming with confidence and a palpable, contagious energy.
“He’s a great player,” senior guard Brandon Robinson said of his freshman teammate’s cadence. “So why would he lack confidence? He’s a great player, he knows his ceiling, and he works hard. When you work on your game, I feel like you can be like that.”
So, when he stepped down from the walkway and into the bleachers heading down to the court, he took his jersey off and twirled it around in the air. So, when it was time for the dancing — and there was a lot of dancing — and it was his time to express himself, he chose to twerk for good measure. So, when it was his turn to make an impression in the skills competition, he casually aced every cone and pass before stepping into an effortlessly dazzling left-handed windmill slam. And so, when it was time for the annual intrasquad scrimmage, he confidently fired away a pair of pull-up threes in the opening minutes, cashing both of them.
“You never know what you’re going to get with him,” graduate transfer Justin Pierce said. “It’s really fun to play with an electric point guard like that.”
As tantalizing as his jaw-dropped displays of sheer, unmatched athleticism may be, there’s more to the New York native’s game that makes him such a special talent.
He is, by and large, expected to be the next great point guard to grace a Carolina hardwood that’s seen plenty of memorable guards. The last decade alone has gifted fans the ability to watch the likes of Coby White, Joel Berry, Marcus Paige, and Kendall Marshall serve as floor generals in Roy Williams’ run-happy offense, and Anthony is primed to add his name to the list — and stand out — with his combination of raw athleticism, underrated passing craft, and versatile scoring ability.
This year, the Tar Heels may only go as far as Anthony is willing and able to take them.
That is unquestionably a heavy load for a freshman guard to carry, but if Friday night was indicative of anything, Anthony will be just fine. He’s confident, and, as he proved all night long, he’s embraced his stardom.
That’s just who he is.
Header photo by Jack Garside.