The waiting. The criticism. The uncertainty. And then the joy.
It all came to a head Wednesday night for Cole Anthony. He couldn’t help it. He was on national television, surrounded by family and friends — a small gathering that included famed director Spike Lee — and the emotions got the better of him.
“I was crying tears of joy,” the Upper West Side native said, shortly after he was selected 15th by the Magic in the virtual 2020 NBA Draft. “Shoot, it’s just tears of joy, it was sadness. A struggle. This year was a struggle, I can’t even lie.
“It was a rough year. Just literally like every emotion, I went through that in a short period of time. Now it’s just sheer bliss.”
Anthony, the 20-year-old son of former NBA point guard Greg Anthony, entered his one and only season at North Carolina considered a likely top-three pick. The 6-foot-3 point guard set the Tar Heels’ scoring record for a player in his debut, with 34 points.
But a significant injury followed, and Anthony needed surgery for the first time in his life, to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee. He never fully recovered, his play suffered after he missed 11 games and North Carolina finished under .500 for the first time in 18 years. Anthony’s draft stock took a significant hit, with questions arising about his shot selection and low shooting percentages. He fell in mock drafts, though he didn’t end up falling as far as most experts predicted.
And now he winds up in a desirable destination, in sunny Orlando playing for the guard-needy Magic and reuniting with close friend and former AAU teammate Mohamed Bamba.
“I’ve never been more prepared for a moment in my life,” he said. “I’m ready to step up to the NBA. I’m ready to go.”
Anthony’s selection was part of a big night for New Yorkers, the first time three New York City-area natives went in the first round since 2005. Obi Toppin, the National Player of the Year who grew up in Brooklyn and attended high school in Ossining, N.Y., was taken by the hometown Knicks eighth overall, and Precious Achiuwa of Queens was picked 20th by the Suns.
“My hope was to end up in a great organization, and thank God my prayers got answered and I’m part of a great organization,” said the 6-foot-9 Achiuwa, who came to New York City from Nigeria when he was in the eighth grade. “I can’t wait to be able to get out there and compete with the rest of my teammates.”
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