Days after the North Carolina men's basketball team suffered a heartbreaking 97-80 defeat to Auburn in the Sweet 16, first-year forward Nassir Little announced he would enter his name into the 2019 NBA Draft.
The news, although not surprising, means that UNC will not return at least four of its top five scorers from this year's team. Cameron Johnson, Kenny Williams and Luke Maye will not be walking on the court wearing Carolina Blue next season, and it's become increasingly unlikely that Coby White will return.
White's name has shot up draft boards during an impressive first-year campaign where he averaged 16.1 points and became the first UNC first-year to score 30 or more points on three separate occasions. If White declares for the NBA draft, that will leave Garrison Brooks, the team's sixth leading scorer, as the top weapon for the 2019-2020 team.
For UNC to avoid the kind of fall back down to Earth that it suffered in the 2009-2010 season when it failed to make the NCAA Tournament after the 2008-2009 team's top four scorers left for the NBA, the Tar Heels must sign Cole Anthony.
Anthony, the top remaining recruit still unsigned in the 2019 class according to 247Sports, is the kind of score-first guard North Carolina will need if White leaves Chapel Hill. The son of former NBA player Greg Anthony announced via Twitter on Sunday that he has narrowed his list of potential suitors down to four schools: Georgetown, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Oregon.
Adding Anthony's name to a 2019 class that includes five-star big man Armando Bacot and three-star point guard Jeremiah Francis would likely leapfrog UNC from No. 49 on the 247Sports rankings into the top 20. It would also bolster a team that desperately needs scorers.
Right now, UNC's starting lineup likely includes Brooks, Seventh Woods, Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black and Bacot. Brooks had a breakthrough campaign and upped his scoring average by 3.4 points, and Robinson showed flashes as a scorer off the bench, but there's no question that this lineup needs help.
That's why the addition of Anthony is dire for UNC to be successful next season. The 6-foot-3, 184-pound combo guard can jump out of the gym and he can score in bunches. With the buzz surrounding his talent, he's also unlikely to stay more than one year in Chapel Hill, but his addition would give Francis time to learn the ropes as a young point guard with room to grow.
Anthony made headlines by transferring from Archbishop Malloy (Briarwood, N.Y.) to Oak Hill Academy in Virginia after his junior season. The decision followed an AAU campaign for PSA Cardinals where he averaged 26.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists and earned MVP honors for the Nike EYBL.
At Oak Hill Academy, Anthony has continued his scoring prowess this season, dropping a season-high 33 points in one game and averaging 17.8 points on an efficient 48.9 percent clip from the field.
Anthony is the kind of player who could significantly strengthen UNC's roster next season. As White showed this year, a scoring point guard works well in head coach Roy Williams' system and a starting lineup with Anthony, Robinson, Black, Brooks and Bacot would be rather formidable.
The good news for North Carolina? Anthony is friends with Bacot and the guard has visited UNC four times. Anthony's latest visit came on March 9 when he and Bacot watched UNC take down Duke on Senior Night.
All the signs are pointing toward Anthony signing with UNC. Yet one has to wonder why the 2019 McDonald's All-America Game MVP has not yet announced his intentions. On April 20, Anthony will play in the Jordan Brand Classic and announce his college decision that day, according to Rivals.com Whatever the case may be, North Carolina needs to sign Anthony to strengthen a depleted roster and avoid the kind of pitfall suffered in the 2009-2010 season.
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