ORLANDO - If you watched the NBA in the early 90s, or for the younger generation have studied up on the league’s history, you probably know at least a little bit about the New York Knicks teams of the early 90s. The face of that franchise at that time was Patrick Ewing, and their brazenness and bruteness, with Pat Riley at the helm, often wore down their opponents.
Playing nasty was their M.O., and for the most part, it was an effective methodology as they made deep runs in the playoffs, including reaching the NBA Finals in 1994.
Their bench included two youngsters just starting out in the league. One was Greg Anthony, who many were familiar with from his years at UNLV, where he won a national collegiate championship. The other was Hubert Davis, a 6-foot-5 sharpshooter out of the University of North Carolina. They were the Knicks’ first-round draft picks in 1991 and 1992, respectively.
When Anthony’s son, Cole, now a guard for the Orlando Magic, was deciphering where to play in college, his dad’s bond with Davis played a big factor. Davis, now UNC’s head men’s basketball coach, was one of the now-retired Roy Williams’ assistants then and an instrumental voice on the recruiting trail.
“Hubert Davis was really the coach that recruited me. Him and obviously Roy,” Cole Anthony said. “He and my dad have been friends for a while. He is just a great dude. Just love him and I’m so happy for him, and now he’s got that job now and I feel like he’s doing well.”
The 6-foot-3 scoring assassin indeed committed to the Tar Heels over some of the other schools he considered, including Oregon, Georgetown, Miami, Notre Dame and Wake Forest. Besides his trust in the coaches, Anthony says UNC’s family-like environment helped put that school over the top.
While a knee injury did cost him 11 games, Anthony had an excellent freshman campaign before deciding to turn pro.
In his very first college game, he filled up the stat sheet with 34 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in a win at the Dean E. Smith Center over Notre Dame. He would go on to score 20-plus points nine times that year in 22 games. It was a disappointing season for the school, however, as they went just 14-19, Williams’ only losing season in his 18 years as UNC’s head coach. Their final game was played on March 11, the day sports in America froze because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, Anthony cherished his time at Chapel Hill, and he continues to check in on how his alma mater is doing on the hardwood with Davis steering the ship. Even though it’s tough for him to watch games because of his commitment to the Magic, he makes sure to keep himself connected to the program through social media.
“I haven’t watched too many college games this year but obviously I’m a UNC fan,” he said. “I’ve stayed updated with every single game they’ve played. On their Instagram, I stay updated with them. They do rapid reactions after every game. I’ve read every single rapid reaction after every game just to kind of see how everyone’s doing. My boy ‘Mando (Armando Bacot) has been ballin’ and shout out to coach Davis because they’ve been pretty solid so far.”
ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi currently has UNC as a No. 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but with so much of the season remaining and with them playing some of their best basketball recently, it’s very possible they will climb in the rankings and land a much higher seed come March.
Many of UNC’s top players went on to become stars in the NBA, including Michael Jordan, Bob McAdoo, Billy Cunningham, James Worthy, Charlie Scott, Brad Daugherty, Rasheed Wallace, Vince Carter, and Antawn Jamison. One of Anthony’s favorite all-time Tar Heels is Sean May, currently one of Davis’ assistant coaches at the school and a member of UNC’s 2005 national title team.
The school has had a ton of basketball success, winning six national championships on the men’s side and one on the women’s side.