Armando Bacot got a mohawk haircut on Wednesday in preparation for a big few weeks ahead.
The 6-foot-10, 238-pound power forward from Trinity Episcopal School (VA) is looking to win titles with the USA Basketball U18 national team and also with Team Takeover at the prestigious Peach Jam tournament this July in North Augusta, South Carolina.
Bacot is one of 32 athletes at the USA Basketball national team training camp that runs Thursday through Saturday at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
He was one of 21 players in the class of 2019 invited to the Next Generation Sunday program at the Final Four in which the American players competed against NBA Academies from overseas, attended the national semifinals, and played on the Alamodome floor the day before Villanova topped Michigan in the NCAA championship game.
"I'm definitely excited just being able to play on such a prestigious thing as USA Basketball," Bacot said to FloHoops on Wednesday by phone. "I know so many great players have played with USA Basketball and I know if I made the team it would be a great opportunity."
Finalists for the team that will compete at the FIBA Americas U18 World Championship June 10-16 in St. Catharines, Canada, are expected to be announced on Saturday. Kansas coach Bill Self is coaching the USA team.
"I can rebound the ball and score," Bacot said. "I just bring a winning mentality. I feel like I've been winning a lot my whole life and I know that what USA Basketball is about so I feel like I can translate to that culture easily."
Bacot has done nothing but win with Team Takeover, which also features junior big man Hunter Dickinson and junior wing Justin Moore (a Villanova commit), both of whom play for DeMatha Catholic and both of whom are also part of the U18 pool. The Washington, D.C.-based team completed the EYBL regular season with an unblemished 18-0 record and will be the favorites heading into Peach Jam July 11-15 in North Augusta.
"It feels good just playing on a team with so many unselfish people," Bacot said. "Of course I want to average 20 points and 15 rebounds but just playing with them and sacrificing for the better of my team, I feel it will better prepare me for the next level."
Takeover won their final game in Hampton, Virginia, against Expressions Elite, but the game was closer than coach Keith Stevens would have liked. And his players heard about it.
"He was just more mad at us," Bacot said. "You know how Keith is — he felt we weren't playing and defense in our last game. We see people saying we might possibly be the best defensive team on the EYBL ever, but coach Keith is always telling us we need to improve on it.
"I know he had a team that went 20-0 or something like that and ended up losing at Peach Jam, and he doesn't want that to happen. So he's been real tough on us."
At this point, Bacot and his teammates feel anything short of the title at Peach Jam would be a failure.
"I would definitely say so," he said. "Just being undefeated the whole year, we feel like we can be one of the first AAU teams to just go undefeated the whole season and that's just our goal."
As far as recruiting, Bacot listed North Carolina, Duke, VCU, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State, and Georgia among the schools working hardest. Pittsburgh also just offered recently
He broke down each school recently for ZAGSBLOG:
“I feel like I’m their top priority, they’ve really been recruiting me hard. [Coach Roy Williams] feels like I can be a great player there and I can excel. With my playing style, I can show a lot of versatility and just showing what I can do.
"They’ve been to my school about four or five times, Roy Williams. And I just recently went up there."
"I talk to coach [Nate] James like two or three times a week. Obviously, if I went there they would want another big to go there. They would want two bigs, so it'll be like that." (Duke is also in the mix for 2019 big man Vern Carey.)
"VCU's message is it's the hometown city [Richmond]. I can come in and I live like five minutes from VCU."
"They're big on development and think we could have a great team there my freshman year."
"Coach [Tom] Crean, he got a [home] visit from me. He feels like I can be a one-and-done. He talks a lot about developing me as a player. He coached a lot of pros and stuff like that, so that's basically their message."
"They want me to come in and make an impact early. They feel like I can be a great player there and they feel like with their offense, I would be able to excel and score the ball and rebound the ball and do it all."
Don't forget to catch Bacot and a host of other stars at Peach Jam this July, which you can watch live on FloHoops.