UK Recruiting

He might be the best basketball prospect in the country. His recruitment remains a mystery.

Cole Anthony plays for PSA Cardinals on the Nike circuit.
Cole Anthony plays for PSA Cardinals on the Nike circuit.

Through the first three stops on the Nike circuit this spring, few players have made a bigger impression than five-star point guard Cole Anthony.

The son of former college star and NBA veteran Greg Anthony leads the Nike league in scoring with 25.6 points per game. Anthony — listed at 6-2 — is also averaging 7.2 rebounds per game, an impressive number for a player of his size who’s been competing against some of the best big men in high school basketball.

Last summer, as a sophomore, he was named the Nike league’s defensive player of the year and won top offensive performer honors at the annual Peach Jam event, playing for PSA Cardinals, the same club that has produced Quade Green, Mohamed Bamba and several other five-star recruits.

Anthony is clearly a well-rounded player with a great basketball background. 247Sports national analyst Jerry Meyer has been saying since last year that he’s the best prospect — regardless of position — in the 2019 recruiting class.

“If the rankings were mine, I’d rank him No. 1,” Meyer told the Herald-Leader recently. “He can score from anywhere. He’s extremely athletic. He’s competitive. He’s got pedigree. He’s got genetics. He rebounds. He can pass the ball. Basically, he can do everything. He’s really, really good. And it’s a point guard’s world.”

The rankings are a team effort among analysts. 247Sports currently has Anthony at No. 7 overall, though that number is from earlier this year and has a good chance of improving as the summer moves on. USA Today, in a list released Tuesday afternoon, ranked Anthony as the top prospect in the 2019 class.

Perhaps Anthony’s most impressive trait so far this spring — more than his scoring ability or his defensive intensity — has been that rebounding number.

The Nike league features the best bigs in the country — James Wiseman, Vernon Carey and Isaiah Stewart, to name a few — and Anthony has been out there battling for boards on the same courts.

In a game against Wiseman’s team last month, Anthony grabbed 11 rebounds. In others at a recent a stop in Indianapolis, he was all over the paint, showing off his quickness, athleticism and nose for the ball in traffic alongside players much bigger and taller.

What does that tell you about his demeanor?

“It tells you he has athleticism, size and he has the mentality,” Meyer said. “And that mentality is, ‘I’m competing.’ Guys who rebound are competitors. They want the ball for their team. And a lot of times we complicate stuff, but you boil the game down and it’s all about getting possession of the ball and getting it in the hole. And not letting the other team get possession and get it in the hole. Those are your two basic things.

“And he’s a point guard who can do both of those things.”

When teammates see one of the smallest players on the court willing to play like that, the competitiveness often spreads.

“It speaks very much to mentality. When your point guard is busting it, hunting down rebounds versus staying on the outskirts of things — it does inspire a team,” Meyer said. “It’s like the general who will lead his army into battle, versus hanging back with the binoculars.”

As a result of his play, Anthony has been a staple of the “top performers” lists that national recruiting websites put out after every major stop on the shoe company schedule.

The added attention has also added to the obvious question: what’s going on with Anthony’s recruitment.

The answer is unclear.

Anthony declined to take part in all three interview sessions at the recent Nike stop in Indianapolis, and he’s skipped others throughout the circuit’s schedule so far this spring. He did a short video interview last month with D1Circuit — the official coverage website of the Nike league – but nothing regarding his recruitment was discussed. A recent interview with 247Sports didn’t shed any light on his school list.

Anthony’s recruitment was the first question tackled by national analyst Eric Bossi in his weekly mailbag Tuesday, but there wasn’t much to say.

“That’s a tough call because he doesn’t really talk about it or go into specifics those times he does,” he wrote. Other recent stories about Anthony’s performances on the court have included similar sentences about his recruitment.

Bossi did list Duke, Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Oregon, Villanova, Pittsburgh and Georgetown among the possible contenders. Duke is the leader on his 247Sports Crystal Ball page, but only one prediction (for Oregon) has been made there since last year.

Kentucky clearly has some interest, too.

UK assistant coach Tony Barbee has been watching Anthony on the Nike circuit this spring. Barbee and John Calipari are both plenty familiar with Anthony’s game after seeing him multiple times this past season alongside Archbishop Molly (N.Y.) High School teammate Moses Brown, a former UK recruiting target from the 2018 class.

In an interview with Big Blue Insider’s Curtis Burch over the weekend, new UK point guard commitment Tyrese Maxey mentioned Anthony as one of the 2019 prospects he’s been recruiting on the Wildcats’ behalf. (It’s worth noting that Barbee was also the lead assistant in Maxey’s recruitment).

Where Anthony ends up in college — and when he might break his relative silence on the subject of his recruitment — remains anybody’s guess.

In the meantime, UK — and just about every other top program in the country — will keep watching.

New UK commitment Tyrese Maxey says the Wildcats' coaches have compared him to a cross between Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray. He also wants to team up with James Wiseman.