CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina coach Roy Williams says star freshman point guard Cole Anthony has returned to limited practice and could play Saturday against Boston College after missing 11 games following knee surgery.
Williams said Friday that Anthony got some 5-on-5 work Thursday after largely being limited to shooting in his recovery from December knee surgery. Williams said Anthony had gone through about “25 to 35%” of practice Thursday, and that his availability for the BC game would depend on how he feels after Thursday and possibly more work Friday.
“If he comes in today and says he’s sore, then he’s not going to play,” Williams said. “If he comes in today and says he feels great and handles it well, then … there will be a probability I’ll play him.”
Anthony — considered a likely one-and-done prospect and high NBA draft pick — hasn’t played since a Dec. 8 loss at Virginia and had arthroscopic surgery Dec. 16 to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee. At the time, he was expected to miss about 4-6 weeks in his recovery; a return Saturday would come two days shy of seven weeks since the procedure.
The injury also made him the latest college star to face the question of whether they should try to return from an injury or just sit out the season to protect their looming draft prospects. Anthony had multiple social-media posts saying he would return soon, and was emphatic in his first post-surgery comments to reporters Monday night that he would return to the Tar Heels.
“As soon as I get clear, I’m hopping on that court, I’ll tell you that,” Anthony said.
Anthony was averaging 19.1 points through the first nine games as the team’s only player capable of consistently creating his own shot. The Tar Heels (10-10, 3-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) are 4-7 without him, though they stopped a five-game skid by beating Miami last weekend then earned a seventh straight road win at North Carolina State on Monday.
“It felt kind of weird seeing him kind of practice with us because it’s been so long since he’s been on the court in live situations,” junior Andrew Platek said Friday. “But it was great. He did some really good things and we hope to have him back as soon as possible.”
While Anthony hadn’t returned to practice until this week, Williams said Anthony has been working on conditioning and that he had given Anthony shooting drills such as testing how long it takes him to make 125 3-pointers. Williams said Anthony’s minutes if he does play against the Eagles would depend on how he looks running the court and feels.
“He’s dying to play, so we’ll see what happens,” Williams said.