The North Carolina Tar Heels announced Tuesday freshman sensation Cole Anthony is going to miss four to six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic surgery Monday on a partially torn meniscus in his right knee.
"Obviously not having a player of Cole's caliber will be a tremendous challenge to our young team, but we have to play," UNC head coach Roy Williams said. "No one player is going to replace the production Cole Anthony gives us, so it's up to everyone who puts on a North Carolina jersey to raise his game and help our team play better."
Anthony has averaged 19.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals across nine appearances for the Heels during the 2019-20 season. The guard already missed one game, Sunday's upset loss to the Wofford Terriers, because of the injury.
North Carolina has dropped four of its past five games since a 5-0 start. Its sluggish offense, which currently ranks 317th in field-goal percentage, is the main culprit. UNC has failed to reach 65 points in any of its losses, including two games below 50.
Anthony, the team's leading scorer, hasn't been immune to the team-wide shooting struggles, as he's connected on just 36.8 percent of his attempts from the field, but he's been one of the few Tar Heels who has showcased the ability to create his own offense off the dribble.
The 19-year-old son of former NBA guard Greg Anthony set the highest possible bar for himself coming into his first, and likely only, collegiate campaign.
"At the end of the day, from what the projections are saying, I feel I can do more than that," he told reporters in November. "I don't want to just be First Team All-ACC. I want to be Player of the Year."
Although the injury is a setback to those ambitions—though the Duke Blue Devils' Zion Williamson showed last year it's possible to capture the Naismith Trophy despite missing time with injury—it shouldn't completely derail UNC's season.
The timetable suggests Anthony should return some time between mid-to-late January. The Tar Heels face just one currently ranked opponent during that stretch (No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs on Wednesday).
They start a stretch of three out of four games against ranked foes when they take on the No. 19 Florida State Seminoles on Feb. 3, which is a realistic target for the guard's return, if he's not back before that.
If Anthony returns to the lineup on schedule, he'll be available for the most important stretch of the regular season, the ACC tournament and the NCAA tournament.
In the meantime, K.J. Smith could become a stalwart member of the starting lineup after taking Anthony's spot against Wofford, and Garrison Brooks will become the team's go-to scorer.