Photos by Jack Garside
Last season, UNC's backcourt featured a mixture of youth and experience with freshman Coby White and senior Kenny Williams starting nearly every game. This year, the Tar Heels will have a similar blend with the 19-year-old Cole Anthony and his 21-year-old counterpart Christian Keeling. The two manned the Blue team's backcourt at Late Night With Roy, and they did not disappoint.
After a couple of scoreless possessions to start the game for both sides, Keeling got the blue team in position after a great play on defense. The grad-transfer played off on Brandon Robinson, Rechon Black looked to make an easy pass near the top of the key before Keeling came out of nowhere to pick it off and race down the court. Robinson was able to recover and force a missed layup from Keeling; however, Anthony flashed his athleticism, grabbed the ball in midair, and laid it in for the game's first points.
On Blue's next trip down the court, Anthony faced up K.J. Smith and nailed a deep three. On back to back possessions, the top-ranked incoming point guard had already shown his ability to score around the basket as well as a soft-touch from deep.
After a hot start, Anthony cooled off but continued to show off his impressive handle and a knack for slicing to the basket. On the other hand, Keeling was just heating up and displayed an array of shotmaking ability with several contested layups and smooth strokes on mid and long-rangers.
All in all, Anthony and Keeling scored 8 and 13 points respectively, accounting for nearly half of the Blue team's 43 points.
The duo definitely passed the eye test during their first open scrimmage. Though fans won't know what to truly expect until the season starts, the two alleviated a lot of concerns with their performance. However, one question still needs to be answered. As good as the two are on offense, it is yet to be seen whether they can hold their own on defense.
One of Anthony's biggest knocks coming out of high school is that he was often out of position when guarding on-ball. Though he has excellent recovery speed, he will have to tighten up his posture and angling before being able to be successful against the likes of Tre Jones and Kihei Clark in the ACC.
Keeling, listed a 6-foot-3, looks like he could actually be a hair or two shorter. It will be interesting to see if he can match up against taller two guards and shut them down as Kenny Williams did on many occasions last season. If so, it will go a long way in determining whether he has the chance to play professionally after this year.
Anthony and Keeling have the potential to be one of the highest-scoring backcourts in the ACC and potentially the nation this year. The question is whether Anthony can live up to his tremendous amount of hype and if Keeling is able to keep playing at a high level against tougher competition. If they can or even come close to doing those things, watch out college basketball, the Tar Heels backcourt will be a problem.