There’s an hour of downtime at Trinity Episcopal between the end of classes and the start of basketball practice. Armando Bacot often spends that time running on the school’s outdoor track, bettering his speed.
He’s a 6-foot-10, 238-pound junior, and his size has always been to his advantage. But he hasn’t always been fast enough. As a freshman, he was too slow to play defense on the perimeter, and smaller players would blow past him. His lack of speed kept him from starting.
So Bacot made a commitment to get faster and more agile. He started running 1 mile on the track after school.
And when he ran before practice, coach Rick Hamlin said, Bacot practiced better and more loose.
Last summer, he promised Hamlin that he could run a seven-minute mile, and the coach was skeptical. Then Bacot stepped on the treadmill and did it.
His athleticism and his game improved in leaps and bounds his sophomore year, and Bacot was named All-Metro. He went a step further this year, earning the title of All-Metro player of the year.
“It showed a commitment to being in shape,” Hamlin said of Bacot’s running. “This year, he was an excellent defender.”
Trinity was blessed with size this year, and most opponents couldn’t match up. The Miller School (Albemarle) figured its best chance to beat Trinity was to outrun it. So it started five guards in its lineup against the Titans. Hamlin decided to assign Bacot to Miller’s point guard, DeShaun Wade, an East Carolina signee. Bacot performed admirably, slowing down Wade, and Trinity won by 10.
“I wasn’t sure it would work,” Hamlin said. “But he did an incredible job.”
He became smarter about cutting off angles and using his height to keep shooters from going over him. This year, Hamlin trusted Bacot enough that when his teammates were blocked by ball screens, Bacot would switch assignments and guard the ball. That’s the sort of thing he’ll need to do in college, the coach added. Bacot has offers from Virginia, Duke and North Carolina, among many others. He’s likely to sign in November.
When Bacot was a sophomore, Trinity won the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I state title. But All-Metro player of the year Zach Jacobs (JMU) graduated, making Bacot the primary offensive weapon.
Opposing defenses knew it, and they played zones, collapsing around him, clogging the paint and disrupting his path to the basket.
Bacot embraced the challenge of being the star, Hamlin said. He enjoyed not having to defer. His best games came when Trinity needed it the most. In a state semifinal loss to Bishop O’Connell, he scored a career-high 45. When teammate Jason Wade missed a game against Benedictine, Bacot scored 39. On senior night against St. Anne’s-Belfield, Trinity started the game in a 12-0 hole. Bacot finished with 43, and Trinity won by 14.
“He saved his best for the biggest games,” Hamlin said.