Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
College coaches flocking to Canada for Cole Anthony, USA U18 team
By ADAM ZAGORIA
The July recruiting period doesn’t begin for another couple of weeks, but college coaches will be flocking to Canada beginning Sunday to watch Cole Anthony and the USA U18 team compete in the FIBA Americas Championship in St. Catharines, Ontario.
College coaches are now permitted to watch the USA Basketball youth teams train in Colorado Springs, CO., and compete in their various international events — even when they don’t occur during live periods. The USA plays its first game Sunday evening against the Dominican Republic before facing Panama and the Dominican Republic Monday and Tuesday. The quarterfinals, semis and finals run Thursday-Saturday.
The 6-foot-3 Anthony from Archbishop Molloy (N.Y.) is ranked No. 6 in the 2019 ESPN 60 and is the highest-ranked guard on the USA team. Coaches from Villanova, Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Oregon, Louisville, Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Ohio State are among those expected to watch Anthony, who is focused on bringing home a gold medal. A spokesman for the event said at last count, they were expecting about 30 American schools to be on hand.
“Me personally, I’m wide open in my recruitment,” Anthony said this week by phone from Colorado. “I just love to see as many college coaches as I can.”
An initial pool of 33 players was brought in to try out for the U18 team being coached by Kansas’ Bill Self, but Anthony made the final roster of 12 even after several other guards with New York and New Jersey roots were cut, including Jalen Lecque, Bryan Antoine, Scottie Lewis and Joe Girard.
“It’s certainly an honor,” he said. “It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that most kids will never even have the chance of doing. I’m just happy to be here. I feel like I belong here, though.”
Despite being the only player from New York or New Jersey to make the final cut, Anthony says he’s representing his AAU program more than his city.
“I think I’m more representing PSA Cardinals, my AAU program,” Anthony said of the team run by Wesleyan University product Terrance “Munch” Williams. “I’m continuing the legacy because Quade [Green] and Mo [Bamba] were here a couple years ago, so now I’m happy to be here just following in their footsteps, so I’m just happy that PSA Cardinals could bring another guard out to USA Basketball.”
Williams, meantime, sees Green as a shining example of what his program is all about.
“As far as the PSA Cardinals program is concerned, Cole has been a living example of what we desire for all of our guys,” Williams said. “He has the full package of excellent character, academic standards and basketball talent, and that is what we strive for in all of our student-athletes. His being able to represent both his AAU program and country at the same time is what most will consider a once in a life time moment.
“In regards to what it should mean for New York, he has put the state in position where if he treats this experience with the upmost respect, the door will remain open for the next generation of talented young men from New York City to walk through. I would go as far as to say, he’s positioned himself to utilize his talent to make the entire state proud of the platform in which our kids can perform on if given the right amount of effort.”
Anthony will be playing alongside several other elite guards, including Kentucky-bound Tyrese Maxey, who is making his first trip outside of the U.S. for this event.
(Anthony has been to the Bahamas, but never Canada.)
“I knew him before this, we competed against each other, but this is the first time we’ve been on the same team,” Maxey said. “It’s just different, it’s kind of cool. Just two dynamic guards on the same team, it just ignites your offense and ignites your team a lot better.”
Anthony also got a pep talk from his father, former NBA point guard Greg Anthony, in Colorado that helped get him to play his ‘A’ game.
“He told me to come in here and play my game and we were good money after that,” Anthony said of his famous father.
Anthony is also absorbing as much as he can from Kansas’ Self, a Naismith Hall of Fame coach.
“You learn a lot from him,” Anthony said. “He’s clearly a Hall of Fame coach. He knows his stuff and I’m just going to try to absorb all the knowledge I can from him. It’s just awesome to get that knowledge.”
Self, in turn, wants his guards to push the tempo beginning with Sunday night’s game against the Dominican Republic.
“The biggest thing that we have to do is create pace and tempo,” Self said. “Not only offensively, but through our defense as well.”
After the FIBA Americas event, Anthony returns home and will get ready for Peach Jam July 11-15 in North Augusta, S.C. The PSA Cardinals are one of five New York and New Jersey teams in the prestigious 24-team field.
“I definitely owe PSA Cardinals a Peach Jam championship, so I’m going to do all I can to get us that W,” he said. “Work as hard as I can, make sure my team is locked in.”
Anthony and the Cardinals lost in the Peach Jam championship game in 2016 to a Mokan Elite team led by Trae Young and Michael Porter Jr., both projected Top 10 picks in the June 21 NBA Draft.
“That and last year I feel like we under-achieved, so I feel like we owe them one,” he said. “So this is going to be on me.”
Anthony realizes that he could be on the same trajectory as Young, Porter Jr. and Bamba, all of whom played in that 2016 Peach Jam.
“It’s kind of crazy that looking back on that game, there were three dudes who are going to be lottery picks,” Anthony said. “Looking back it at now is really crazy.”
Asked if he will eventually follow in their footsteps, he said, “That’s the goal.”
Anthony feels a special bond with Bamba, the Harlem native now projected as a top-5 picking the upcoming Draft and the two are close friends.
“Mo, that’s my dude,” he said. “I’m really happy for him. I know he’s worked extremely hard and that’s my boy. I wish nothing but the best for him. I know he had a couple setbacks with some family stuff but I’m glad he’s been able to get past it and continue to be a better version of himself.”
After Peach Jam, Anthony and the Cardinals have the PSA Cardinals Combine July 22 at Westtown (PA) School that figures to draw a slew of high-major coaches.
“I know that if the college coaches really want to start recruiting me, I’m wide open right now,” he said. “That’s going to be a good opportunity.”
Later this summer, he and his family will begin to focus more on recruiting and coming up with a college list. He plans to sign during the spring period in 2019.
“After Peach Jam, after all the camps are done, right before we go back to school,” he said, “we’ll sit down and come up with a list.”
Photo: USA Basketball
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.