Big Man Armando Bacot Fills a Much-Needed Void for North Carolina
In the one-and-done era, college basketball fans have grown accustomed to having to get to know a slew of new, highly-touted names and faces each season, many of whom will spend just one year on campus before moving on to the NBA. In 2019, six of the top 10 NBA draft picks were one-and-done, and eight of the 14 lottery picks overall. Not all elite freshmen will pan out, but history dictates that many of them will help headline the sport for the next year—and, for some, maybe even beyond. Just look at last year’s group of rookies we profiled: Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, Jalen Smith and Devon Dotson lead a whopping 12 former 2018 five-stars back for a sophomore season.
With all of that in mind, SI.com will be introducing you to the top incoming freshmen in college basketball for 2019–20 and breaking down the impact those players could have. The rankings are according to RSCI Hoops, a composite that averages from 25 different expert top-100 lists. Next up is the No. 23 overall recruit, North Carolina's Armando Bacot. You can view all of the profiles to date here.
What He Means for UNC’s Recruiting Class
A 6’10” center coming to Chapel Hill this fall, Bacot is one of four recruits in Roy Williams’ No. 8 ranked class. The five-star big man from Richmond, Va., will join five-star guard Cole Anthony (No. 3), four-star guard Anthony Harris (No. 70) and three-star Jeremiah Francis, a true point. Grad transfers Justin Pierce (William and Mary) and Christian Keeling (Charleston Southern) add plenty of scoring potential and experience to a deep backcourt. With a host of new guards, Bacot is the only 2019 addition to slot in up front. A bucketful of raw talent for Williams—arguably one of the best coaches in the league when it comes to developing big men—to work with, Bacot brings some needed size to Carolina’s incoming class.
How He Fits
Anthony will take the reins in light of Coby White’s NBA departure. Carolina’s new floor general, who Roy Williams regards as potentially the most complete guard that he has ever recruited, will undoubtedly make the most of the offensive options around him. Brandon Robinson, Leaky Black, Harris and Keeling are all candidates to slot in alongside Anthony, with Keeling considered the likely starter at the two. After losing an enormous of amount of their scoring production, the Tar Heels need a threat on the perimeter to take some heat off of Anthony, and Keeling, who shot 38% from three last season, looks like the best candidate for the job. While Williams has plenty of guard options to help those two out, he’ll look to Bacot and Garrison Brooks to form the foundation of his frontcourt.
Expect either Robinson or Black to slide into the three slot once Williams figures out his preferred partner for Anthony, while Brooks fits at the four. The junior forward is a capable shooter, finishing his sophomore season shooting 57.4% from the field and is one of the Tar Heels’ best defenders. Bacot is a nice complement to Brooks, serving as the type of true center Williams has been missing the last few seasons. Both Brooks and departed Luke Maye have slotted in as sufficient supplements, but Bacot’s arrival brings an element of size the team has lacked. The McDonald’s All-American has a 7’1” wingspan, a soft touch around the rim and surprising agility for someone of his size. He knows how to attack, boards well and can help with rebounding and putbacks. He’s a low post threat and strong shot blocker with a better passing game than he’s often given credit for. Bacot’s stamina, however, has been a concern as he seems to tire quickly. He will have to up his energy and endurance to keep up and consistently contribute from end to end. Otherwise, Sterling Manley, coming off an injury suffered last season, could become a contender for the starting spot.
Importance to UNC’s Success/Team Outlook
Bacot is a much-needed interior addition for Carolina and should help answer some of the questions inside after UNC had to often utilize smaller lineups in 2018-19. The pairing of Bacot and Brooks means that Williams at least shouldn’t have to worry too much about his team’s starting paint presence. That duo should lock down on defense and at the post and contribute meaningful minutes and consistent points this season. Anthony and the rest of the newcomers will aim to replace Coby White and Kenny Williams in the backcourt. This crew is well rounded and fills the right holes for the Tar Heels, with Bacot ideally filling a big void at the five.