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'It’ll be a lot of fun': Junior Armando Bacot centerpieces new-look UNC offense

UNC junior forward/center Armando Bacot speaks to the media at the 2021 ACC Men's Basketball Tipoff in Charlotte, NC on Oct. 12.

In Hubert Davis’ first season as UNC’s men’s basketball head coach, expect to see a different version of junior big man Armando Bacot. 

Not that different, though.

After withdrawing from the NBA Draft and deciding to return to the Tar Heels for his third season, Bacot went to work on expanding his game. The team’s leading scorer from a year ago with an average of 12.3 points per game, he added the long-range game to his arsenal in the offseason.

During Tuesday's ACC Tipoff in Charlotte, Davis said that Bacot made 1,000 three-pointers every week during the summer.

“We’ve had great discussions about him and his dreams and goals of playing at the next level in the NBA,” Davis said. “And one of the things that I told him is, ‘In order for that to happen, you’re gonna have to develop a perimeter game.’”

Bacot said that Davis expects him to take more threes during the coming season, as well as at the Carolina Basketball Late Night event on Friday.

“It’s kind of crazy to think that he wants me to shoot a lot of threes,” Bacot said.

His potential rise in three-point attempts would certainly be a drastic one. In 61 games as a Tar Heel, Bacot has attempted just one shot from long-range. He operated primarily on the block during this time alongside former UNC forward Garrison Brooks, as the offense lacked consistent perimeter shooting. 

Much of Bacot’s expansion fits into Davis’ new offensive scheme. North Carolina's new head coach said that he wants his frontcourt to feature players with diverse skill sets.

“Last year, we had four unbelievable bigs, but for the most part, we had four traditional bigs that posted up down low on the block,” Davis said. “So one of the things from an offensive standpoint is I’ve always loved versatile bigs.” 

The incoming transfer players will help with Davis’ plans for the offense. The forwards UNC brought in — Dawson Garcia, Brady Manek and Justin McKoy — bring to the table the shooting and ball-handling that the team is looking for.

“Dawson is someone we really haven’t had at UNC since probably Luke Maye,” Bacot said. “Being able to score off the dribble, if that’s shooting or scoring in the post. Brady, too. The way he can shoot the ball is just crazy. Then Justin McKoy with his defensive mentality. They all bring different things to the table that’ll all come together.”

While the transition play will remain the same, sophomore guard Caleb Love said the half-court offense will look different from former head coach Roy Williams’ strategy from a year ago.

“I think the biggest difference is the four-out, one-in system he likes to run,” Love said. “We’re still gonna get up and down, we’re still gonna lead the country in rebounding. There’s gonna be a lot more spacing because we have bigs that can shoot.”

North Carolina shot 31.8 percent from the three-point line last season, which ranked 13th out of 15 teams in the ACC. The most reliable shooter UNC had was Kerwin Walton, who shot 42 percent. 

Manek is the best shooter of the transfers, as he connected at a 37.4 percent rate in his career with Oklahoma. Garcia shot 35.6 percent from distance for Marquette in his lone season with the team. Time will tell how reliable Bacot’s shot becomes throughout the season, but with a more spaced-out court, he gets more room to operate down low.

With the renewed offensive approach for the coming season, deviating from its past game plan will bring an added freshness to a post-Roy Williams UNC team.

“It’ll be a lot of fun, just playing with the more versatile guys,” Bacot said. “It’ll allow us to do more.”


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