UK Recruiting

Top basketball prospect breaks silence on recruiting: 'Obviously, we're going to consider Kentucky'

Cole Anthony is one of the top players on the Nike EYBL circuit.
Cole Anthony is one of the top players on the Nike EYBL circuit.

It’s no secret in basketball recruiting circles that Cole Anthony — perhaps the best high school prospect in the country — never talks about his own recruitment.

Anthony — a 6-foot-3 point guard from New York City — is ranked No. 2 overall in the class of 2019 by 247Sports, and he’s the son of former college star and NBA veteran Greg Anthony.

Both father and son have talked about the young prospect’s development on the court, but it’s common knowledge that they’ll deflect any basic questions about recruiting.

As a result, little is known about the college future of Cole Anthony, other than some school somewhere will be getting one of the best playmakers in high school basketball.

The sustained secrecy made the following statement a bit surprising:

“Obviously, we’re going to consider Kentucky,” Cole Anthony told the Herald-Leader at USA Basketball U18 training camp over the weekend.

That’s good news for Kentucky, even if the Wildcats — and every other program interested in Anthony — might have to wait several more months for a commitment.

For now, Anthony is focused solely on getting better on the court.

It’s an approach that’s worked well for him so far.

Anthony said that, as a high school freshman, he was already starting to get fixated on the college recruiting process.

“I was hung up on my recruitment,” he acknowledged. “I was like, ‘Dad, am I getting any offers?’ I kept asking him all those questions when I was a freshman. And he told me this, and I still remember this quote: he was like, ‘You don’t even know if the top five college coaches will still be coaching your senior year in high school.’ And it’s really crazy, because now Rick Pitino is gone. He lost his job. And with this huge scandal, you don’t know who might lose their jobs.

“So it’s really stuck in my head, and that’s one of the reasons that we don’t even worry about recruiting at this point. We just worry about getting better.”

Anthony is doing just fine with his on-court production this spring.

He’s the leading scorer on the Nike circuit — the most competitive league in the country — with 26.9 points per game. He also leads the league in made free throws (130 in 16 games) and is shooting 89.0 percent from the line. And he’s among the leaders in made three-pointers (43), shooting 38.1 percent from deep range.

The scoring is just one area of excellence for Anthony, an all-around talent who averages 7.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and is the Nike league’s reigning defensive player of the year. He’s not finished growing as a player.

“We’re just going to work on everything,” he said. “My main thing is to be able to stay a two-way player that can lock you up on defense and score on the other end. And just really focus on making my teammates better and being a very good teammate.”

With his famous father — and UK Coach John Calipari — watching from the bleachers at the U.S. Olympic training complex, Anthony continued to prove himself as the best backcourt player in the 2019 class. He scored at will against some of the best competition in the country, kept his teammates involved, communicated effectively on the court, crashed the boards against much bigger opponents, fought through screens, took charges and did just about everything else college coaches look for in a floor leader.

Greg Anthony, a star player on those great UNLV teams in the early 1990s and an 11-year veteran of the NBA after that, has been a fixture at Cole’s games, and he’s obviously been an influential part of his development and approach.

“It’s an every day thing. We talk every day,” Cole said. “My dad has so much knowledge of the game, and it’s just a blessing to be able to have that resource at all times. Just to be able to text him or call him, see him at any time, it’s just a blessing.”

Greg also handles much of the recruiting, so his son can concentrate on basketball.

“He talks to most of the coaches,” Cole said. “There are occasions when some coaches will text me or call, and I’m respectful, I’m obviously going to pick up the call or text them back, but we’re just not anywhere close to making a decision.”

That lack of recruiting talk has made handicapping Anthony’s college destination a nearly impossible task.

Duke, Kansas and Villanova are among the many major programs pursuing Anthony, but he and his father don’t talk about school lists or possible favorites. In fact, Anthony said most of what he knows about the programs recruiting him comes from simply watching their games on television.

“If I were to tell you I liked a school, it would be a school I don’t know much about,” he said. “So I’m not going to just throw out random schools that I really don’t know much about. Don’t know much about the coaching staff. Don’t know much about the players they have there currently and the players they have coming in.”

He does know something about UK, however, and that’s what sparked his decision to go off script and at least acknowledge that the Wildcats will be in the picture.

Tyrese Maxey is one of UK’s early commitments for the 2019 class. Maxey, also a five-star guard, is an energetic, outgoing personality on and off the court, and he’s made it his mission to deliver more top recruits for Calipari’s next class.

One of his biggest priorities is Anthony, who flashed a big grin at the mention of Maxey’s name.

“That’s my boy,” he said. “Me and Tyrese, we talk a lot, obviously. He keeps pushing Kentucky on me. Obviously, we’re going to consider Kentucky. But there are no frontrunners in this. I don’t even have a list. Tyrese, love his game. I could obviously see myself playing with him.”

Right at that moment, Maxey bounded across the media area at USA camp and playfully grabbed Anthony around the shoulders, offering up a little trash talk about how the pair had played in the previous practice session.

“What are you two talking about over here,” Maxey inquired.

“I was just saying,” Anthony continued, “I could obviously see myself playing with Tyrese. I think we would complement each other’s games. We both can shoot it. We’re both aggressive. We’re both very good defenders. So I could see it happening.”