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North Carolina’s Cole Anthony declares for 2020 NBA draft
1:30 PM ET
  • Andrea AdelsonESPN Senior Writer

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    • ACC reporter.
    • Joined ESPN.com in 2010.
    • Graduate of the University of Florida.

North Carolina freshman Cole Anthony, a projected lottery pick, declared his eligibility for the NBA draft on Friday.

“Throughout my time at UNC I was humbled, challenged and always proud to be a Tar Heel,” Anthony said in a statement. “I want to thank Coach [Roy] Williams and the entire coaching staff for giving me an opportunity of a lifetime and pushing me every day. Thank you Tar Heel Nation for embracing me with open arms from the moment I stepped on campus and sticking by us through a tough season. My teammates — my brothers — we were together in the trenches. You made me better every day and helped me grow as a basketball player and as a man.

“I am excited to announce the next step in my journey and declare for the 2020 NBA Draft. While no one truly knows what the next few months will look like, I’m ready for whatever God has in store.”

🤞🏽 pic.twitter.com/hozBVTBHet

— Cole Anthony (@The_ColeAnthony) April 17, 2020

Anthony is ranked 11th in the ESPN Top 100 for the 2020 draft after averaging 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game for the Tar Heels last season. His scoring average was the highest by a North Carolina player since Tyler Hansbrough (20.7 PPG) in 2008-09 and the second highest by a freshman in school history (also behind Hansbrough, 18.9 PPG in 2005-06), according to ESPN Stats & Information. Anthony made the ACC All-Freshman team and finished third-team All-ACC.

But it is safe to say that Anthony’s only season at North Carolina did not go as planned.

He arrived in Chapel Hill as the top-rated guard recruit in the country. Through nine games, it became clear why, as he averaged 19.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists as one of the top freshmen in the country.

But Anthony suffered a partially torn meniscus in his right knee in December and underwent surgery, forcing him to miss 11 games.

Without him, the Tar Heels struggled badly, losing one heartbreaking game after the next. By the time Anthony returned in February, North Carolina was near the bottom of the ACC standings, a development nobody envisioned before the season began.

Even with Anthony, the Tar Heels continued to struggle, posting one of their worst seasons in recent memory with a 14-19 overall mark.

“I still could’ve raised my play a lot more. I accept full responsibility for the year I had,” Anthony told the New York Post on Friday. “It was probably one of my worst years of basketball. I think some of the criticism might be unfair, but that’s life. Life might be unfair.

“I think I’ve always had a chip on my shoulder. It just motivates me more. Makes me want to work harder.”

In a statement, Williams said he was looking forward to watching Anthony play in the NBA.

“It was unfortunate for Cole and our team that he missed those 11 games due to injury. He had some spectacular moments as a Tar Heel and showed the potential I feel will make him very successful in the NBA,” Williams said. “He has our complete support going forward and I will be one of his biggest fans. It was a pleasure to coach him, and getting to know his family was fantastic, as well. He loves the game of basketball as much as any player I’ve ever coached and he will continue striving to be the absolute best player he can be. He will always be a Tar Heel.”

Last month, Anthony announced that he was delaying his decision on whether to go pro, citing the effect of the coronavirus pandemic in New York City, where he grew up when his father, Greg, played for the Knicks.

Anthony said he had a “higher purpose in this moment.”

As part of Friday’s announcement, Anthony praised the doctors, nurses, medical workers and first responders, among others, for being “not only our leaders, but our heroes and our MVPs.”

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