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What does Armando Bacot bring to UNC?

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A quick glimpse at what UNC is getting in the big man

NCAA Men’s Final Four - National Championship - Villanova v North Carolina Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Earlier today, Armando Bacot committed to UNC. It was a major recruiting win for the Heels, as they continue to stock up on talented post players to provide depth to Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks, and Brandon Huffman. As is the case with many high school recruits, it’s difficult for fans to know what kind of player is joining the program. We figured we would take a stab at giving you a glimpse of what Bacot may bring to the Dean Dome next year.

I’ll give a very basic breakdown of what appear to be some strengths and weaknesses in Bacot’s game. These are the same videos we used in the earlier post announcing his commitment because they are two of the most recent, publicly available highlights. We don’t have a staff budget to travel to recruiting events and aren’t part of any super-secret scouting video services, so we use what we can find on the internet. This is not a comprehensive breakdown and Bacot still has a year of high school remaining. He could be a different player by the time he arrives to Chapel Hill.

The more I watched of Bacot, one word kept coming to mind — “fundamental”. Nothing he does is spectacular, but everything he does is rooted in basics and fundamentals. In his commitment post, I said he plays like a mix between Kennedy Meeks and Tony Bradley. I stand by that — with one major caveat discussed below. Two other parts of his game really stood out as well.

First, he displayed a mature understanding of how and when to use his body. He doesn’t just try to bully his way through the defense. Instead, Bacot tries to put the defender on his hip and/or force his opponent into a poor position. Whether the defender gets pinned on the block, pushed up the paint, or bites on a pump fake, Bacot uses multiple moves and positions to get the ball in scoring position.

Bacot’s ability to feel where his defender is allows him to gain position and use his footwork to create a high percentage shot or draw a foul. That same sixth sense allows him to maintain rebounding position or tip in missed shots. It’s nice to have a 7-1 wingspan, but it’s better when a player knows how to use it. All of this points to a higher than average basketball I.Q. that will continue to be developed.

Second, regardless of where he was on the court, he keeps the ball high above his head. Holding the ball high is a skill that many young players struggle with. Too often they suffer from what I like to call KMS. Named after the most underappreciated UNC post player in my lifetime, Kennedy Meeks Syndrome often leads to missed and/or blocked shots, and turnovers. For a majority of his career, UNC fans witnessed Meeks consistently struggle with bringing the ball below his shoulders, giving the defense time to recover.

In the video above, keeping the ball high helps mitigate Bacot’s lack of natural explosiveness around the rim by allowing for a quick shot release.When he does go to dunk, keeping the ball high means less wasted movement and the defense has less time to recover to block or alter the shot. The high ball position also ensures he’s constantly ready to hit an open man on the block or cutting through the lane. Though he’ll likely play the majority of time at the “5” in UNC’s system, that court vision will be valuable when he finds himself in the high post or passing out of a double team.

As is the case for every player, there are some weaknesses that will need to be addressed, that don’t really show up on these tapes. Though he weighs 240-ish pounds, he doesn’t quite have (or know how to play with) a physicality that stronger players should possess. He clearly has no problem attacking the rim, but most of those dunks were met with light resistance. Right now, his game seems more finesse mixed with opportunistic power, but my scope is admittedly very limited.

Big men also often struggle with conditioning at the college level. In high school they are able to get by on talent alone and Bacot is no exception. A lack of conditioning (or focus) has led to uneven performances at times. That is indicated by a consistent up and down fluctuation in his evaluations and rankings over the past 18 months. As we all saw with Sterling Manley last year (and Tony Bradley in 2016-17) those deficiencies can limit a freshman’s playing time and productivity, especially in UNC’s system.

Bacot also struggles shooting the ball. That’s not a huge surprise for a true center, but it will limit his ceiling in his first few seasons. The most successful post players at UNC eventually developed a mid-range jump shot to keep the defense honest. Unlike 10 years ago, shooting the ball, at least out to midrange, is a requirement for every player in the NBA, regardless of their position. It would benefit Bacot to find some level of consistency, even if his range only extends to 15 feet. It will be interesting to see if any of these weaknesses improve before he enrolls at UNC.

Bottom line, the Heels are getting a player that should be able to contribute early and often. I’m not convinced he’s a one year player, and depending on Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks’ development Bacot could be two years away from even starting. Nonetheless, there is too much talent to ignore. I’ll be surprised if Bacot does not become the latest in a long line of highly regarded post players to leave their mark on Chapel Hill.