CHAPEL HILL — Point Guard University.
Cole Anthony will join the long light-blue line of young men who go to Carolina to lead the basketball program, a lineage that goes back to Tommy Kearns and runs through a college basketball history in and of itself.
Anthony probably has yet to hear of Kearns, who led the 1957 Tar Heels to an NCAA title, but he’s familiar with the last few who’ve run the up-tempo Roy Williams offense.
Williams was asked today how he compares Anthony to those who have come before. Williams went all the way back to Raymond Felton, talking about strengths, weaknesses and similarities through the years.
“He’s a different point guard,” Williams said. “He’s more of a quarterback.”
They’ve all been different.
And while we’ve watched them from Larry Brown and Dick Grubar to Phil Ford and Jimmy Black, from Kenny Smith and Derrick Phelps to Ed Cota and Marcus Paige, and dozens more in between, the list continues into another era of Carolina basketball.
And one day after the announced commitment of five-star point guard Caleb Love, a high school senior, the Tar Heels are looking at the end of an era, too. The one-and-done days are limited, and Williams admitted that he’s just trying to get as many good players as he can assemble before the rules change.
“We’ll make adjustments like everybody else,” Williams said.
Right now, Williams is not like everybody else. He’s right there with Duke and Kentucky now, finally able to get basically who he wants to come play for Carolina. And like he’s always done, he starts at point guard, a position UNC has owned the way Bojangles produces biscuits.
Anthony is next in line, a 6-foot-3 pass-first point guard who is nothing like the point guard before him but is already the leader of the team. His decision to go to Carolina had a lot to do with Williams and a lot to do with those who went there to play point guard in the past.
“Coach Williams has the most Cousy Award winners here,” Anthony said. “That had a lot to do with me coming into this program that has a great lineage of point guards. Raymond Felton, Ty Lawson, Kendall Marshall, who’s here all the time bugging me, Coby (White) who was just here last year. That’s a lot of reputations to look up to.”
Williams has a simple formula for recruiting the top point guards in the country to UNC. He points to the long light-blue line and challenges them. Once in Chapel Hill, the plan for developing them is simple, too.
“Do what I tell them to do,” Williams said. “It’s pretty easy.”
Anthony, who talked with journalists today in a break from tradition at Carolina, is a natural leader, the son of former UNLV point guard Greg Anthony and the player considered the best high school point guard in America last season.
It didn’t take long for him to assert himself as a leader, if not the leader, of the team in summer practices and pickup games. Now a month away from his freshman season, Anthony is confident the older players will listen to him.
“It's a balance,” he said. ”I’m not going to come in here and command 100 things to everyone the first day I come here. I’m going to learn from them just as much as they hopefully are going to learn from me.”
And he’ll have plenty of help, not just from Williams but from the guy who’s been bugging him the last few months.
Marshall has been hired as a recruiting director, basically in charge of the social media aspects of the business, something about which Williams is admittedly clueless. Marshall’s other role with the program, for now, is getting inside Anthony’s head.
Anthony’s role is to stay out of Williams’ head and run the offense.
“It's a process,” Anthony said. “I’m not coming in here expecting him to just give me the keys on Day One.”
That is, in fact, what Williams has done. That’s what he’s always done at Carolina, as Dean Smith did before him and Frank McGuire before Smith. Everything flows from the point guard at UNC, and it goes back to the very beginning.
Anthony is different from those who came before him, and he’s already done something no freshman point guard has ever done at UNC, at least as far as anyone can remember: Talking to the media before playing his first game for the Tar Heels. And he was surrounded by reporters, all asking the same questions about leadership and learning and lineage.
He sat in a chair at the far end of the court, away from all the other players. It was historic in a sense, but with the doors to UNC's Koury Natatorium opened and the chlorine air blowing into the basketball arena, you could close your eyes and smell old Carmichael and remember all the teams that came before.
And all the point guards from the long, light-blue line at UNC.
Point Guard University.