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North Carolina Tar Heels' Armando Bacot returning for senior college basketball season

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Bacot powers in the and-1 for UNC (0:16)

UNC's Armando Bacot gets to the rim for the tough layup plus the foul. (0:16)

North Carolina star big man Armando Bacot is returning to the Tar Heels for his senior season, he announced Wednesday, cementing him in the discussion for preseason Wooden Award honors.

"This year's experience showed me I do not want to miss the chance to do it again next season. On the court, we got so close this year," Bacot said in a video posted to social media Wednesday. "I know there are no guarantees, but I want the opportunity to play in those big games. To keep Carolina on that national stage and to have the chance to do what coach [Hubert] Davis has talked about since his first day on the job: Put another banner in the Smith Center.

"My Carolina story isn't finished just yet. Next season starts right now."

Bacot, a 6-foot-10 center from Richmond, Virginia, is coming off a dominant junior season in which he earned first-team All-ACC honors. He averaged 16.1 points and ranked third in the country with 13.1 rebounds. He also shot 56.9% from the field, good enough to rank in the top 25 nationally.

He then helped lead North Carolina to the national championship game, becoming the first player in NCAA tournament history with six double-doubles in one tournament. He averaged 15.3 points and 16.5 rebounds in the six games, including 20 points and 22 rebounds in the Elite Eight win over Saint Peter's and 15 points and 15 rebounds in the title game against Kansas.

Bacot suffered ankle injuries toward the end of each of North Carolina's Final Four games against Duke and Kansas.

While it appeared for most of the season that Bacot was leaning toward departing the Tar Heels, he was not projected to be selected in June's NBA draft.

With Bacot back in the fold, Davis could have a preseason top-five team in Chapel Hill.

Brady Manek was the lone North Carolina starter out of eligibility. Leaky Black is a senior, but he can return due to the NCAA granting every player an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-impacted 2020-21 season. Caleb Love and R.J. Davis could test the NBA draft waters, but Davis is expected to return to North Carolina for another season.

North Carolina will also bring in a recruiting class featuring three ESPN 100 prospects and four four-star prospects. Jalen Washington and Seth Trimble are the headliners, although the Tar Heels are squarely in the mix for elite junior G.G. Jackson, who could choose to reclassify and enroll in college next fall.