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Heel Tough Blog: Mando's Maturity

Upon arriving at Chapel Hill last season as a decorated 5 star prospect, Armando Bacot was thought of to be an impact player for Roy Williams right away. There was talk that he could be one of the best post players to ever come through the program, which is saying a lot when you look at the lineage of talent we’ve seen. After a monster double-double in a win over the Oregon Ducks at the Battle 4 Atlantis, we thought maybe Bacot had arrived on the scene of college basketball. We waited all season long for the Richmond, VA product to produce another similar game. Despite recording the second most double-doubles as a freshman in UNC history, Tar Heel fans, and even coaches were wanting more from Armando. No one knew what the future would look like after the postseason was cancelled due to the global pandemic we were facing at the time, and still fighting today. That made the decision easier for Bacot to return for his sophomore season, albeit not knowing if the upcoming college season would be played on time or not.

The decision to return may have been an easy one, but working on his game wasn’t going to be easy. With the pandemic, players and or coaches didn’t have the normal off-season they get to have. There wasn’t the usual summer ball, where you get together for instruction and conditioning. It eliminated the famous scrimmage games with former players in the Smith Center, where you can really see how much growth any given player has experienced. These challenges forced Bacot, and every other player to be disciplined enough to get into the gym on their own to try and get better. Of the areas Bacot needed to improve on, none were as important as finishing at the basket, and getting into better shape. A high school highlight reel of a big man running the floor for easy dunks, hadn’t made its way to the Smith Center.

Not only was Bacot back for the Tar Heels, Garrison Brooks who was coming off a standout junior season was also back for his senior season. In addition to those guys, Roy Williams was also bringing in talented port players in Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler. With the two newcomers, it meant for a crowded frontcourt, which put the emphasis on Bacot to improve to see court time.

When the season began if you would have been told that Armando Bacot would mold into the best player for Carolina, become the first option on offense, and put his name in the running for ACC Player of Year, you wouldn’t have believed it. Not only wouldn’t you believe it, but it would probably give you flashbacks to last season in regards to Garrison Brooks. Flashforward to the end of January and that’s exactly what has happened. Bacot leads the Tar Heels in scoring at 12.6 points per game, and rebounding with 7.8 boards a game. He’s leading Carolina in scoring in large part because he’s shooting a blistering 65.5% from the field, up from 47% last year. Of the 16 games played so far, Armando has reached double figures scoring in 12 of them. He’s also recorded a modest 4 double-doubles, but he’s a big reason as to why the Tar Heels are the best rebounding team in college basketball. Across the board, his efficiency numbers are up from a season ago, despite only averaging 7.3 shots per game. He’s averaging 21.5 points per 40 minutes, up from 15.7 last season. To go along with his impressive per 40 averages, his offensive rating is up to 127.7, a big improvement from 104.6 a season ago.

In conclusion, Armando Bacot has transformed himself into a premier player not only in the ACC, but all in college basketball. In addition to his stellar play off the court, he’s proven to be a leader for this team both on and off the court.

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