basketball Edit

Bacot's Directives Are Consistency And Extending His Game

Armando Bacot turned in a historic season as a junior, but Hubert Davis said he can get better, and here is how.
Armando Bacot turned in a historic season as a junior, but Hubert Davis said he can get better, and here is how. (USA Today)

CHAPEL HILL – If Armando Bacot was a rock band, or any musical entertainer for that matter, and was serenaded by adoring fans for an encore, what would he play?

Most bands save at least one of their biggest and most embraced hits for the very end, after the initial "final applause." but they also offer up something a bit new and different, before ending with a splash that gets everyone on their feet singing and swaying in unison.

As the North Carolina forward works this offseason preparing for his final campaign as a Tar Heel, he is coming off a historic season that saw him destroy UNC’s single-season rebounding mark and nearly win ACC Player of the Year while leading the Tar Heels to the national championship game. So, what now for the 6-foot-10 Virginian?

“One of the things that you can improve and get better is consistency,” UNC Coach Hubert Davis recently said during his summer press conference at the Smith Center. “It’s not necessarily, he averaged blank rebounds a game and he has to average more rebounds (if) he’s gotten better. From a defensive standpoint and rebounding, why don’t you do it again.”

Hence, the task for the 2022-23 season: Do it again.

But he can also have a repeat performance while showing some new wrinkles. You know, like the band that offers up a new unknown tune before bringing down the house with a classic.

For Bacot, that means extending his game, revealing a newness that will not only enhance Carolina’s quest for a national championship, but also his chances at playing at the very highest level when his UNC days are done.

UNC forward Armando Bacot tied the NCAA record with 31 double-doubles last season.
UNC forward Armando Bacot tied the NCAA record with 31 double-doubles last season. (THI)

“One of the things, in terms of Armando and trying to push and prod is for him, that I really believe he has an incredible ability at the high post to shoot the ball from the outside,” Davis said. “I know that’s something that he can do, and I know that’s something, because he wants to play in the NBA, he’s going to have to show that he can do that.

“So, I’m really excited to see Armando’s improvement from last year to this year, but one way you can determine that is the consistency from year to year, and I really believe all of our players will be able to do that.”

Shooting from the outside doesn’t necessarily mean Bacot is going to start jacking up three-pointers in November. He did make 1,000 a week last summer, but his extended game might really mean more jumpers from the free throw line area, maybe some pop-out from the block, turn-and-shoot 15 footers, and so on.

Especially with Northwestern transfer Pete Nance now a Tar Heel, he and Bacot can play off one another, doing some double-post stuff that leads to either going to the high post or stepping out. Both are excellent passers for big men, so the work they can do together has to tantalize Davis.

Bacot, who was 1-for-8 from the perimeter last season, led the Tar Heels in scoring at 16.3 points and rebounding with 13.1 per contest. He also blocked 65 shots, shot 56.9 percent from the floor, and converted 67 percent of his free throw attempts. In addition, he tied Navy’s David Robinson (1985, 1986) for the all-time single-season record with 31 double-doubles. He grabbed nearly 100 more rebounds during the season than any other Tar Heel in history.

Furthermore, Bacot got better on the glass as the season went along. He grabbed 10 or more boards in UNC’s last eight games, and 12 of its final 13 contests, averaging 15.2 in that span. He scored or fewer points in four of the contests and 20-plus in three, so the other six games he was in between. Not every game called for Bacot to hit the 20-point mark, but opening his game more and finding other ways to score points will be a part of the mission through next April.

All UNC fans can save moneyand get into the Tar Heels stream using promo code HEELS22.
All UNC fans can save moneyand get into the Tar Heels stream using promo code HEELS22. (NIL Fan Box)

His ankle badly injured during a win over Duke in the Final Four, and exacerbated late in the loss to Kansas in the national championship game, Bacot isn’t back to full strength yet, but he’s slowly getting there. And, he continues to grind and get better even not being at full strength.

“Armando told me (last week) that he’s ‘77 percent’ in terms of his ankle,” Davis said. “The percentages these kids give out are hilarious… It’s getting a lot better.

“Me personally, having gone through ankle sprains, you’re better but you don’t feel like a hundred percent for maybe five months. So, every day he’s playing pickup, he’s doing individual workouts. But the overall strength – (23) percent of the strength is missing for Armando. But he’s continuing to get better.”

Bacot likely will be the preseason ACC Player of the Year, and along with Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe and Gonzaga’s Drew Timme, he will mark some preseason National Player of the Year honors as well.

Adding to his game will not only enhance his chances at earning those honors once the season concludes, but leading the Heels to the national title and better situating himself for a spot in the NBA, will all be byproducts of Bacot’s work this summer, and what he adds to his game.

That process is ongoing.

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