Orlando Magic Select Cole Anthony with No. 15 Overall Pick in 2020 NBA Draft
ORLANDO -- Cole Anthony exudes passion for the game of basketball.
That love for the game was all too evident as tears came streaming down the 20-year-old guard’s face as he received the call that would make him the No. 15 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft and the newest member of the Orlando Magic.
“This is the best moment of my life right here,” an emotional Anthony proclaimed during ESPN’s broadcast. “Nothing compares to this moment right here – maybe birth – but this is the absolute best moment of my life.”
That’s because basketball runs deep in Anthony’s blood. As the son of Greg Anthony, a former NBA player who spent 11 years in the league and went right from the hardwood to the broadcast booth, Cole always dreamed of following in his father’s footsteps.
“My whole entire life I’ve been training for this moment – and not just this moment, moments beyond this,” Anthony said. “I really, really just look forward to getting better every day and just hopefully having a long and successful career in the NBA.”
The University of North Carolina standout knows what it takes. His hard work ethic and attention to details are evident to anyone who spends time around him.
“He’s driven to be great; he’s driven to make his team great and there’s really nothing more important in our league than that,” Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman said. “So that’s maybe where the emotion (of being selected) came from, he feels he has a lot to prove and I know he’s eager to do that.”
On top of passion and drive, the 6-foot-3 combo guard possesses rare skills that made him one of the highest ranked players coming out of high school. Extremely dangerous with the ball in his hands, Anthony can create shots for himself like few others in this draft class. He’s a willing defender and rebounds extremely well from the guard position.
Anthony played in 22 games – 20 starts – last season as a freshman at the University of North Carolina, averaging 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.3 steals in 34.9 minutes per game. He led the Tar Heels in scoring and had the second-highest scoring average for a freshman in school history.
“At (6-foot-3) with a strong body, and a high motor, and a high skill level, and a high IQ, we feel Cole is going to be a modern guard,” Weltman said. “He’s going to be able to play both positions and elevate others around him.”
The Magic envision Anthony as able to play both point guard and shooting guard, alongside Markelle Fultz. It’s an opportunity that Anthony welcomes and thinks will lead to great team success.
“Markelle, he’s very skilled,” Anthony said. “I think that our games will complement each other. I personally am looking forward to playing with him. Besides that, you got someone who is going to come in and just wants to win. (I’m) just going to do whatever I can to help the team win.”
Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford has seen firsthand the value of having multiple pick-and-roll players on the floor at the same time.
“Look at the great success Toronto has with playing (Fred) VanVleet and (Kyle) Lowry together,” Clifford said of a Raptors team that eliminated the Magic on their way to a 2019 NBA championship. “I think we can definitely do it. They’re big enough to do it and they’re both physical enough to guard bigger players.”
The Magic were high on Anthony to begin with but zeroed in on him after an in-person workout which he called his personal best and sit down in Miami. The meeting helped prove that Anthony had also recovered from a partially torn meniscus that sidelined him for 11 games during the middle of UNC’s 2019-20 campaign.
“Cole was very impressive in the visit,” Weltman said. “Not only was he healthy, but he was bouncier and livelier and stronger than we had seen him in college. He’s clearly been putting in a lot of work.”
The excitement of adding Anthony to the Magic’s roster was widespread. Award-winning film director and producer Spike Lee was in the room and jumped for joy as the 190-pound guard as was drafted. Mo Bamba sent out a tweet welcoming his old friend and offered to pick him up from the airport.
However, he won’t get much time to celebrate and bask in the moment as NBA training camp will begin early in December and season will start shortly after that.
“Look, I haven’t 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. It's just not a matter of me being cocky. It's just a matter of I've put in a lot of hard work (and) I'm ready to go.”
For Anthony, those are more than just words. It’s what he feels he was born to do.