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Markelle Fultz injury puts Magic spotlight on Cole Anthony

Cole Anthony was being brought along slowly. His role as a rookie was as the Magic’s first guard off the bench.

That has now changed. Anthony will now be asked to make a big leap, after starting point guard Markelle Fultz suffered a torn ACL early in Wednesday night’s victory over the Cavaliers.

The 15th overall pick out of North Carolina, Anthony has struggled shooting the ball so far as a rookie, making only 30 percent of his shots from the field, though he has played well overall, averaging 8.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 21.5 minutes per game. With Fultz out, and fellow guards Evan Fournier and Michael Carter-Williams also hurt, Anthony played a season-high 32 minutes on Wednesday, finishing with eight points, four rebounds and three assists.

“He is built for this,” teammate Terrence Ross said, according to USA Today Sports. “He is not shy of any moment. He’s a tough kid. He is improving really fast. He is picking everything up. It’s going to take some time but you gotta go through it. That’s how everybody goes through it when they first get into the league. They gotta figure out where they are, figure out how they can contribute every single night. It’s going to help him grow up a little faster. It’s all about how he handles it but I think he will do well.”

Anthony, an Upper West Side native and son of former Knicks guard Greg Anthony, was considered a top-five prospect entering college a year ago. But he didn’t have a strong season at North Carolina amid injury issues and fell in the draft. The Magic are happy to have him now, despite his shooting woes. They believe in Anthony.

“This poor kid had no summer league, no summer, no September workouts,” coach Steve Clifford said. “He’s a perfectionist. He’s putting a lot of pressure on himself. He’s one of those guys who will do three good things and one bad thing and he’ll remember the bad thing. . . . You have to do it step by step. I think it’s more important they get into a rhythm with their teammates and they feel good about things and they are playing well on both ends of the floor and you build from there. Unfortunately, because we have taken these injuries, it’s made it tougher. He is playing a position he has barely practiced.”

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