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UNC lands five-star center Armando Bacot

UNC just landed a major piece to their 2019 recruiting puzzle

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It’s official. On Thursday afternoon, North Carolina received its second commitment for the class of 2019. Armando Bacot put an end to his recruitment and officially declared via Twitter he will join the Tar Heels next season. It would be inaccurate to call this announcement a formality, but the Heels have been the expected landing spot for Bacot for approximately the past six months.

Quite simply, Bacot was UNC’s main priority at center. Over the last 18 months he has made multiple unofficial visits to Chapel Hill, and in July released his final five schools. North Carolina made the cut, along with Duke, VCU, Georgia, and Oklahoma State. Only the Blue Devils were considered to be legitimate challengers. In the end, despite spending his childhood cheering for Duke, he decided that his blood is actually Carolina Blue.

A five-star recruit and top-25 player in the class of 2019, Bacot will become the latest in a long line of highly rated post players to hone their skills under Roy Williams’ tutelage. Currently ESPN and Rivals have Bacot ranked 21st, while the 247Sports Composite slots him at 26th. He joins James Michael McAdoo, Isaiah Hicks, and Tony Bradley as just the fourth post player this decade to hold a consensus five-star rating and choose the Heels. (Everyone wave at the NCAA!)

It’s difficult to estimate where Bacot will fit into next season’s team. Recently measured at the Nike Skills Academy at 6-9 and 244 pounds, Bacot projects to be a classic low-post threat at UNC. His ability to find open teammates from the high post and attack the rim from the elbow could also make him dangerous from the trail position. Much of his impact will depend on the progress of Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks, and Brandon Huffman, The trio of current post players will be juniors by the time the 2019 class arrives.

A conventional inside-out center, Bacot possesses elite hands and impressive mobility for a guy his size. With a 7-1 wingspan, he has the length and talent to impose his will on anything that enters the paint. He won’t break any ankles or win a sprint contest anytime soon, but is more than fast enough to be the rim runner that thrives in UNC’s primary and secondary breaks.

That mobility has allowed him to develop advanced footwork and multiple post moves on the block. What he’s lacking in explosive athleticism, he makes up for with a technical polish to his game that eludes most high schoolers. It also gives him the ability to put the ball on the floor in limited spurts, such as a two-hand power dribble or a shot fake and drive to the rim. He is not necessarily an “above the rim” player, but he doesn’t pass up an opportunity to dunk the ball.

If you want a UNC player to use as a comparison, Bacot’s game is a mix of Kennedy Meeks’ technical finesse and Tony Bradley’s size and length. Check out these highlight videos, and tell me if I’m wrong. (In a following post, I’ll provide a little more analysis on his game.)

Similar to Bradley, Bacot falls just outside the “elite” tier of bona fide one-and-done prospects, but should immediately provide production in the paint. Playing for Team Takeover this past summer, he earned MVP honors at the prestigious 2018 Nike Peach Jam. Averaging 11.3 points and 12.8 rebounds over the seven game event, Bacot showed out against the best high school talent in the nation. Prior to that, he joined Coby White on the Team USA U18 Men’s Basketball team for the FIBA Americas tournament. In both events, Bacot’s squad was the last team standing.

If Bacot continues to play like he did in July, a jump in the recruiting rankings can be expected. He’s already on the precipice of being the highest rated big man to come to Chapel Hill since Isaiah Hicks in 2013. Depending on your recruiting service of choice, Bacot is higher ranked prospect than Tony Bradley. Evaluated as a true center, he’ll arguably be the highest rated UNC recruit at that position since Tyler Zeller in 2008. In other words, North Carolina is getting a major talent that has proven elusive for the better part of a decade..

Last season, Bacot played for Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond, VA. As a junior he averaged 24.5 points, 12 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 3.5 blocks per game. After leading the Titans to a state title in 2017, they eventually fell in the semi-finals this past season. Heading into his senior season, Bacot decided he wanted another challenge.

In 2018-19 he’ll suit up for IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. Citing his desire to win a national title at the high school level, Bacot will use the year at IMG to better prepare himself for the rigors of college basketball. IMG specializes in training (and educating) high-profile athletes as they prepare to play at the next levels. The move also means that Bacot will be playing against some of the best recruits in the nation on a nightly basis.

Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Josh Green, both top-10 caliber players who hold offers from UNC, will also spend their senior year at IMG in 2018-19. The “IMG 3” have Carolina fans giddy at the prospects of landing multiple players from the school. That remains to be decided, but at this point the UNC coaching staff may as well just rent an apartment in Bradenton. They’re going to be frequent visitors.

Bacot joins point guard Jeremiah Francis as the Heels’ only two commitments for the class of 2019. With at least three more scholarships available, the Heels will now turn their focus to their remaining recruiting needs.

Welcome to Chapel Hill, Armando. You picked the better shade of blue.