Cole Anthony’s trainer tries to quell doubts about polarizing NBA Draft prospect
Chris Brickley, Cole Anthony’s trainer since he was 16, was delighted by the point guard’s quarantine request.
The Manhattan product asked Brickley if they could scour tape of his underachieving freshman season at North Carolina via Zoom.
It was a perfect learning tool during the coronavirus pandemic preventing them from live training.
“We watched the whole UNC season over again,” said Brickley, former Knicks player development coach from 2013 to 2016. “That was pretty cool. That wasn’t even my idea – to be honest. I approach players a lot about “lets’ do this with mini projects.’ But he came to me. It showed he’s a student of the game. And he wanted to take a look about how he could’ve done better from a maturity standpoint.”
Anthony is a projected lottery pick in the June 25 NBA draft – slated anywhere from No. 5 to 15 in mock drafts. “I don’t know a lot of lottery kids that would want to do that with their time,’’ Brickley said. “He learned a ton.”
Brickley is Carmelo Anthony’s longtime trainer and now has another Anthony with Knicks ties to groom. The son of ex-Knick guard Greg Anthony has various stigmas attached to him after tearing a meniscus in his knee in December.
“My take is you had a UNC team not very strong and he was put in a no-win situation,” Brickley said. “When I hear he had a bad personal season, I shake my head. He ended the season second-leading scoring freshman in the country.
“He figured out a way against defenses that were geared toward him. He was the only best option on the team. It wasn’t an easy situation for him.”
While the knee injury is considered a negative to some, Brickley termed it “a pivotal moment.” Anthony returned on Feb. 1 after a six-week absence.
“Ninety percent of projected lottery picks, with the team not doing well, they’re not going to come back,” Brickley said. “That spoke volumes. He came back the first few games, took charges and sacrificed his body. It was a testament to his toughness and how much he cares.”
Brickley started training Anthony when he was 16 and playing for Archbishop Molloy in Queens. Anthony transferred to basketball factory Oak Hill Academy, where in 2018-19 he averaged a triple double (18.5 points, 10.2 rebounds, 10.2 assists).
Though he logged UNC numbers of 18.5 points, 5.7 rebounds and four assists per game, he shot an inefficient 38 percent. Criticism also surfaced about him not being a good enough playmaker who makes teammates better.
“Sometimes you hear the selfish, shot-first guy, I shake my head again considering what he did at Oak Hill,” Brickley said. “As far making other players better, I’ll bet the money in my bank account that — just as he ended the regular season as top freshman scoring guard, he’d have liked to end the season as No. 1 assist guy. He really is a willing passer.
“If you watch the tape, he’d get double-teamed, he’d make the extra pass. Sometimes you know how it goes. If you don’t have someone stretching the floor, knocking down shots, you’re not getting the assist.”
While a freakish athlete, Anthony needs improvement on his outside shot. He was respectable at 34.8 percent from 3. “Most NBA players that get to the right organization, they become better shooters,” Brickley said. “That will definitely happen with Cole.”
A strong relationship with Anthony’s parents helped the bond of player-trainer. Brickley calls Anthony’s mother, Crystal, a movie producer, author and a “mother figure” to him. Brickley’s own mom passed when he was a child.
Greg Anthony, who played for the Knicks during the glory days from 1991-1995, has dropped into their workouts across the years, giving input. Greg Anthony lives in Florida.
“He’s given me pointers – the next couple of weeks work on this, then focus on this, watch (Stephen) Curry film,” Brickley said. “He’s definitely been part of the development process.”
Last summer, Brickley got Anthony in a gym with Donovan Mitchell, Trae Young and D’Angelo Russell to “see the type of work ethic these guys have.”
Brickley’s two charges, Cole Anthony and Carmelo Anthony, have also played 1-on-1 in the gym. Carmelo is currently quarantining in Portland.
“It’s ridiculous how really tough he is on himself,” Brickley said. “If you want to watch a workout, you’d be like “whoa.” l’ll have him do a drill — if he doesn’t get that score, he’s going to want to do it again and again until he gets it. He’s extremely competitive. He embodies that New York toughness. I don’t know if it’s being born here, playing here but he’s a very tough kid. At the next level, that will allow him to get better.”
Brickley hopes Cole winds up a Knick, in the market for a scoring point guard.
“I’ve asked him about it,” Brickley said. “He doesn’t want to be drafted by a team that puts him to the side and doesn’t make it a priority to develop him. He wants to be put in a situation where he can be with a good coaching staff willing to keep improving his game. He’d love to play in New York for sure. He grew up in Manhattan.
“Over the years, Knicks would draft guys from the New York area and it hasn’t gone well off the court. He’s got two really good parents who kept his head on straight. They always told him what was right and wrong. If the Knicks draft him, I don’t think you have to worry off the court.”
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