By R.L. Bynum
CHARLOTTE — When you see the jovial Hubert Davis full of smiles, don’t be fooled into thinking that there isn’t plenty of fire once practices or games start.
It didn’t take long for junior center Armando Bacot to discover that when Carolina started preseason practice.
Bacot said several times last season that Coach Roy Williams was harder on him than anybody. Davis quickly dispelled any notion that it would get any easier under his leadership.
“It’s about the same,” Bacot said Tuesday at ACC Tipoff. “Coach Davis, he’s just as intense, surprisingly. He seemed like such a nice guy. But he’s just as intense as Coach Williams, if not more.”
Practices are split up into three groups, with Coach Sean May overseeing the big men.
“Coach Davis and Coach May, they try to really get on my nerves every day,” Bacot said. “They are hard on me. I don’t know what it is. The coaches, they just like being hard on me.”
Making it easier on Bacot, though, will be Davis’ offensive system that will often put four players outside of the 3-point arc to give him more space to create plays inside. It will be quite different than during his first two seasons under Williams, when double low posts or high and low posts were common.
There will be no more sharing the lane area with a player such as Garrison Brooks, Day’Ron Sharpe or Walker Kessler.
“Oh, there’s definitely a lot more room out there. It’s time to eat,” said Bacot, who led the team with 12.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season. “I get a lot of one-on-one coverage, so it’ll be fun this year not having to get double-teamed, guards stunting at you and also from the top of the key. Just me being able to have more of a free lane to drive in and not worrying about somebody being down there.”
Having other tall players such as Dawson Garcia and Brady Manek, who can make perimeter shots, will also make it less congested inside for Bacot.
“I’m more like the designated post player but also I can go out, defend a little bit,” Bacot said. “Dawson and Brady, they want to knock down those 3-point shots and they want to do those types of things. So, I love it because I get to be me and do more of what I like to do.”
Another big difference is that perimeter shots from Bacot that might have drawn a death stare and a few choice words from Williams last season are encouraged this season.
Bacot stopped short of saying he wasn’t allowed to take 3-pointers last season but it obviously wasn’t part of the offense since he only attempted one in his first two seasons. That came last year. He missed.
“Coach Davis, he actually yelled at me for not taking enough 3s. So, it’s a lot different,” Bacot said.
Davis said that Bacot made 1,000 3-pointers every week during the summer and expects his range to expand.
“I feel pretty confident,” Bacot said of his shot. “I mean, I’m not going to go away from what got me here. But now if the defense is sagging off me a little bit, just so they can respect me a little more, I’ll definitely take some.”
Bacot said that while Davis wants the Tar Heels to attempt a lot of 3-pointers, he still wants them to be smart. He said that Davis got mad at the team during practice on Monday when there was a two-on-one as they tried to break the press and the ball went on the wing for a 3-point attempt.
Part of the different offensive philosophy this season is that first-year assistant coach Pat Sullivan has implemented more of an NBA style. Sullivan spent many years on NBA staffs after being part of the 1993 NCAA championship team.
“[Davis has] kept a lot of the same fundamentals as Coach Williams,” Bacot said. “But the difference is the fact that, the way we play, we take a lot of stuff from the NBA and having Coach Pat Sullivan, he’s been huge on just to implementing a lot of things that he’s learned over his 20 years in the NBA, and the way we play our coverages on ball screens and the way we space the floor. So, it’s been a lot of different stuff we’ve had to learn but it’s been fairly the same.”
When Bacot says he wants the team to have a banner season, he means that literally.
“Obviously, we want to win a national championship,” Bacot said. “We want to go undefeated. But, if we can’t do that, we don’t want to lose two games in a row. We want to win an ACC championship and get some kind of banner up there.”
If that happens, all of those days with the coaches being hard on him will have paid off.
Photo courtesy of the ACC