By R.L. Bynum
CHAPEL HILL — As Armando Bacot enters his senior season and continues to enjoy a fun-filled offseason, he doesn’t sound like a player thinking much about using the extra season available to him because of NCAA COVID-19 rules.
His focus is on Carolina winning a national championship he narrowly missed out on last season and diversifying his game at the urging of Coach Hubert Davis to better position himself for a career in the NBA.
There was a long pause Monday when he was asked if he’d consider coming back for a fifth college season, followed by a little bit of humor.
“Oh … probably not. I doubt the coaches will even let me come back,” Bacot said. “They barely let me come back this year. So, I doubt Coach Davis would let me come back. I feel like they feel like I’m ready [for the NBA] and they’re ready for me to get out of here.”
Bacot is well aware that the best part of his game in college is his post-up play, with his tenacity around the basket to score and pull down rebounds. He’s also aware that those skills alone won’t be enough to impress NBA scouts.
Davis wants Bacot to be coveted enough by NBA teams that he’ll get a lucrative contract or, as Bacot said, “get paid,” so they’ve had conversations about reinventing his game.
Bacot points to the styles of Golden State’s Kevon Looney or Boston’s Al Horford and the way they play around the top of the key and get other players involved.
“I think Coach will probably take me a lot away from just posting up,” said Bacot, acknowledging that it’s taking him away from his strengths. “So, it’s a lot of different ways he wants me to do things this year. I think that says a lot about Coach Davis, just not wanting me to play to my strengths and wanting me to play to something that’s gonna get me paid but also still using my strengths and ways and it’s gonna be a good year.”
Bacot agrees that changing his game like that isn’t easy, but hopes there’s a payoff after the season.
“I guess it’s difficult but I’ve been working with the coaches and I’ve been working hard too, and have still got a lot of summer to work on my playmaking, screening and just the little things,” Bacot said. “I know at the next level, I won’t be some big-time post scorer and things like that.”
Bacot says that he and Northwestern transfer Pete Nance have worked on being more versatile in the transition game.
“We’ve really been working on just me and Pete, even on the break, getting it off the glass and being more playmakers just letting us flow into the offense more, kind of like how the Warriors play a little bit,” Bacot said. “That’s some of the things we transition into — just anybody going and getting us into the offense. I think it’d be a little different of a look, but you’ll see a lot more playmaking for me and Pete.”
His summer has also been filled with a long list of fun activities that are a result of NIL and his popularity.
He was asked to list the top five most fun things he’s done this summer.
No. 1: Cameo on the Netflix series “Outer Banks” — “That was huge.”
No. 2: Going to the Kentucky Derby
No. 3: Talking to Shaquille O’Neal via FaceTime — “He knew who I was and he said he likes my game. That was the reason I started playing basketball. So for him to say that that was huge.”
No. 4: The chance to meet successful people and pick their brains — “Jim Pallotta, he used to own the Celtics, AC Roma, too. He was a really smart guy. I got to pick his brain and learn from him. So, that was really cool.”
No. 5: “Some really cool summer classes.”
Not making his top five was throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game. Bacot, who is from Richmond, says that he’s a Philadelphia Phillies fan but that the Orioles are his second-most-favorite team. Bacot has an NIL deal with Jimmy’s Famous Seafood and the owners of that business, UNC fans, set up the appearance.
“It was just a cool experience just because I grew up not far from Baltimore and just being able to meet all the guys and throw out the first pitch,” Bacot said. “I was nervous, of course, and I’m glad I didn’t fully mess it up.”
The cool offseason experiences just keep coming for Bacot, who is trying out chefs and hopes to hire one next month to cook meals for him. But nothing would be cooler for him or the Tar Heels if he cooks up another run to the Final Four.
Photo via @UNC_Basketball