NORTH AUGUSTA, S.C. – As a reigning Peach Jam champion, Armando Bacot takes pride in knowing that he accomplished a feat that multiple current NBA All Stars fell short of.
“Peach Jam is the toughest title to win because of all the talent,” Bacot said. “It’s the best of the best.”
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Last summer, Bacot overcame the odds posting 14 points and 11 rebounds to lead Team Takeover (Washington, D.C.) past Team WhyNot (California) 96-78 to claim the Nike Peach Jam title.
A new champion will be crowned on Sunday.
“Winning this event does so much for your confidence,” said Bacot, now a freshman at North Carolina. “This is the one that everyone wants.”
The confidence boost set Bacot on a course that helped him lead IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida) to a GEICO Nationals title and a No. 1 overall ranking in the final USA Today Super 25.
The natural question is: How was he able to get it done at Peach Jam?
We got Bacot to list his three keys to winning Peach Jam and even had him handicap the tournament.
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Stick to the game plan. “Whatever you did to get here has been working so you have to stick with it. When we came in to Peach Jam last year we were undefeated so, of course, we wanted to stick with that. It’s just about trusting in what your team has been doing all summer and knowing that if you stay focused on getting better with that same plan you have a better chance to win.”
Losses can be a good thing. “We hadn’t experienced a loss the whole EYBL until we got to Peach Jam, and then we got our first one in pool play. I honestly think that helped us a lot. We refocused, and we saw that our goal could be cut short if we don’t get it together. It was a wake-up call and it was needed. So if a team takes a loss in pool play just learn from it and move on.”
Remember why you’re there. “Peach Jam is the top tournament of the summer, and to be able to win it gives you a confidence that is hard to describe. We knew that if we could win it then we would go down as one of the best EYBL teams of all time; that was our focus. You just can’t let anything detract you from that. If you stay focused on that you’ll have a better chance.”
Other than my former team, my pick to win the Peach Jam is: “OK, you said I can’t pick Takeover even though I feel like they can win it… OK, I’m gonna say Vegas Elite or the Texas Titans.”
Follow Jason Jordan on Twitter: @JayJayUSATODAY