Student. Athlete. Mogul?
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One day last October, Bubba Cunningham, the athletic director at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, made the short walk from his office to the Dean E. Smith Center, where the mens basketball team was holding a noon practice, and took a seat at one end of the stands. He wanted to see how the Tar Heels were coming together for the upcoming season, though he already had an idea: The Associated Press ranked them first in the nation in its preseason poll. Cunningham watched the starters run plays against imaginary defenses. Most of those plays ended with a guard, either Caleb Love or R.J. Davis, making a bounce pass to Armando Bacot, who laid the ball into the basket.
As a junior last season, Bacot, a 6-foot-11 center, led the Tar Heels and their rookie head coach, Hubert Davis, through March Madness and into the national championship game. In all six of his tournament games, he scored at least 10 points and tallied at least 10 rebounds, an unprecedented run. Bacot was projected to be chosen in the N.B.A. draft that June. After any other such season, he almost surely would have left school to start being paid to play basketball. But last season was different. For the first time in modern history, a college athlete didnt need to go to a professional league to do that.
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