TarHeelIllustrated - Bacot On Improving, Hansbrough, The Bigs, School, & More
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Bacot On Improving, Hansbrough, The Bigs, School, & More

CHAPEL HILL – Last week, North Carolina Coach Roy Williams and three returning Tar Heels met with the media to discuss the start of practice and the upcoming season. On Wednesday, it was sophomore Armando Bacot’s turn.

Bacot spent nearly 15 minutes fielding a variety of questions, though most focused on how he’s developed from a freshman campaign in which he averaged 9.6 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 46.9 percent from the floor.

The 6-foot-10 native of Richmond, VA, converted 80-for-124 (64.5 percent) from the free throw line, handed out 39 assists, committed 55 turnovers, blocked 36 shots, and registered 16 steals. Overall, Bacot scored in double figures 16 times and grabbed 10 or more rebounds 14 times. He registered 11 double-doubles. Bacot averaged 24.4 minutes playing all but one of Carolina’s games, each of which he started.

Bacot reference Wednesday a need for consistency, something he wasn’t a year ago. Part of the problem were some ankle injuries that affected his game and, he acknowledged, his mind.

Here are some notes and pulled quotes from what Bacot had to say:

*Tar Heels legend Tyler Hansbrough has been working out with the team and the experience for Bacot has been huge. Hansbrough, the ACC’s all-time leading scorer as well as UNC’s all-time leading rebounder, the 2008 National Player of the Year, a four-time All-America and 2009 national champion, is one of the most physical players in UNC history and even still is at the age of 34. With Bacot, Garrison Brooks and freshmen big men Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler giving Roy Williams one of the deepest and most gifted front lines in the nation, facing someone who plays like Hansbrough does is making Bacot and his teammates better in the paint.

“It’s crazy. I remember as a little kid watching Tyler Hansbrough seeing how good he was, and just actually being on the floor with him is kinda crazy,” Bacot said. “Y’all know how Psycho T is, he’s just so physical and it’s like he’s always trying to go through your chest every play. You just have to be prepared and try to not get a tooth knocked out.”

Former Tar Heel seven-footer Tyler Zeller, the 2012 ACC Player of the Year and eight-year NBA veteran, is also working out with the team, and there’s plenty Bacot and the other bigs have learned from him, too.

“Tyler Zeller, he’s so skilled and he’s really good at scoring the ball, so we’ve all been just taking stuff away from both of them.”

*Bacot worked out with former Tar Heel and NBA veteran Ed Davis during the summer as well, and the emphasis for Bacot has been to work at finishing around the rim better and avoiding foul trouble. Are those the areas of his game that have improved the most?

“That’s what I’ve been working on most of this offseason,” Bacot said. “Just being more physical around the rim and finishing through contact, but also extending my jump shot out and making a little mid-range, too.”

*With four big men with possible NBA futures on the roster and each of them slated for roles in the rotation, how does Bacot envision this working out over time?

“It’s been great,” Bacot said. “We’ve been witching up the lineup every day in practice so all the bigs have been able to mix in with each other and stuff. We’ve all got different strengths and weaknesses and we all play well together, so it’s been great. And just all being able to be rested and come in and play hard for the time we’re in, I think it will be great.”

*Last week, senior Andrew Platek said that Williams is still “pissed off” about last year’s 14-19 record. So, what is Bacot’s interpretation of how his coach is going about things right now with respect to that dismal record?

“Obviously, we didn’t like how the season ended,” Bacot said. “Coach has been turnt up every day, and we’ve been bringing it every day not taking anything for granted. Coach has been on us about any little mistake, and that’s just the way it is. We’re trying to have a perfect season.”

*Among the things Bacot has embraced with Carolina’s deep freshman class is imparting on them what he learned from last season. It’s a more mature Bacot who’s using his wisdom to help his younger teammates.

“Just being inconsistent, just taking days for granted,” Bacot said. “That was something I did a lot last year. If I see them slouching around I try to tell them, ‘Just pick it up, don’t take any day for granted, you should always want to go in the gym and just give your best because you never know when it can be taken away.’”

*Last week, Brooks, Platek and Leaky Black offered their takes on the freshmen, so what does Bacot think about guards Caleb Love and RJ Davis?

“Caleb, he’s (got) good balance,” Bacot said. “He can score the ball good but he’s also a good facilitator, which is good for us. He’s a big lead guard. He shows flashes of greatness.

“RJ, too. He’s been good – he’s a really good shooter. And they both push the ball great, too, they’re always looking for that long pass that’s famous in the UNC secondary (break).”

*Bacot was recently accepted into UNC’s Kenan Flagler Business School. This is an amazing accomplishment for anyone, and quite impressive for an athletic given time demands on their sport.

“It was something that was stressful because it’s such a hard school to get into,” Bacot said. “And the days leading up to it, I was nervous. Business is something I have a lot of passion – the other thing I love – and it’s something I’m always looking at. I’m always looking at the stock market, learning about real estate.

“It was something huge and was definitely a big part of my decision in coming here. So I’m just glad I got a chance to be accepted into Kenan Flagler.”