‘I always believed in him’: Family, friends react to Richmond’s own Bacot in NCAA Final Four

North Carolina's Armando Bacot, right, collides with St. Peter's KC Ndefo during the first half...
North Carolina's Armando Bacot, right, collides with St. Peter's KC Ndefo during the first half of a college basketball game in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA tournament, Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)(Matt Rourke | AP)
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 7:36 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Richmond native Armando Bacot is making headlines as UNC dances its way to the NCAA Final Four.

The 2019 Trinity Episcopal School graduate, with the 804 area code tattooed on his arm, put up 20 points and 22 rebounds Sunday night. His talent on the court spoiled St. Peter’s Cinderella run and plenty of brackets for folks who counted out the 8-seeded Tarheels.

Two of his biggest fans were there to witness it all, his mom Christie Lomax and Former High School Coach Rick Hamlin.

“I knew that potential he had and to be now representing Richmond, representing Trinity, going to the Final Four to play Duke, and he was East Region MVP...I mean, are you kidding me?” Hamlin said with a smile.

Hamlin beams with pride after watching one of his own players achieve the type of success that you see in the movies.

“To see him lift that East Regional trophy, cut the nets down...I haven’t really had a feeling like that since we won the state championship with Armando as one of the stars of that team,” Hamlin said.

Hamlin says there’s much more to Armando than the star we see now, gaining national attention. He says he worked his way up to earn his spot on Varsity in high school. He was not a starting player right out the gate.

“He was kind of the kid that was counted out,” Bacot’s Mother Christie Lomax said.

She says he’s been through the trenches to make it to this point.

“He really had to work hard, really had to prove himself, he had to diet, he had to get in shape, he went to IMG Academy in Florida, to leave home, leave mom and dad, everybody, to go after his dream,” she said. “It’s really beautiful to see it manifest itself from a lot of the struggles he endured.”

There were challenges at the collegiate level too.

The pandemic hit, and UNC did not make it to the NCAA tournament last year, but finally, Bacot is living out his childhood dream of going to the Final Four as a team captain. To put a cherry on top, he gets to play rival Duke on the big stage in New Orleans during Coach K’s retirement season.

He made an effort to ensure his coach and family got red carpet treatment and front row tickets to the whole show.

“I’m feeling the pride that a parent must feel,” Hamlin said. “Obviously, he’s not my own child, but I’ve known him for so long, and we have such a close relationship. We text after almost every game. I always believed in him and that team because he’s the leader of that team, and he’s a winner.”

UNC’s win over Duke back prior to March Madness was the most-watched College Basketball game of the regular season. This Saturday’s matchup is anticipated to be one of the most-watched College Basketball games of all time.

You can tune in to watch Armando ball out Saturday at 8:49 p.m. on CBS Sports.

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