Mirror, mirror: Bachynski has goals in front of him
FEB 13, 2014 1:35p ET
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Even in a defensive system that occasionally held him hostage on the perimeter, Arizona State freshman center Jordan Bachynski made four athletic blocked shots in a four-minute span in a loss to Arizona in January 2011.
It turned out to be a small taste of a much larger dessert, although Bachynski did not feel it at the time. He remembers that game less as a coming-out party than more of a sudden toss into the deep end.
"I was like a deer in headlights, man," Bachynksi said this week. "I just remember ... not being scared but being, 'What do I do?' Because it was in the system with the matchup zone. I had no idea what I was doing. I was just trying to run around and hope I did pretty well."
Hope no longer applies. Bachynski broke former Arizona center Anthony Cook's Pac-12 career record for blocked shots in the Sun Devils' timely home sweep of the Oregon schools last week -- he has 288, Cook had 278 -- in time for what could be his final career game against the second-ranked Wildcats at Wells Fargo Arena on Friday.
While the 7-foot-2 Bachynski is averaging 12.2 points and 9.1 rebounds in helping Arizona State (18-6, 7-4) put itself in strong position for the NCAA tournament, the blocks have become his calling card. He leads Division I with 107 blocks, 21 more than his nearest competitor and more than 262 Division I programs entering the week's play. He is aiming to break his own conference record of 120 set last season, when he finished just behind NCAA leader Chris Obekpa of St. John's.
Coach Herb Sendek's move from his pet matchup-zone defense to a man-to-man put Bachynski in position to use his frame to block and/or intimidate, and he certainly has made the most of it. Some may ignore numbers, but Bachynski places them squarely in his sights.
"My goal was to lead the nation in blocked shots," he said of 2012-13. "I didn't quite get it last year, so I kept that goal on my bathroom mirror."
Literally on his bathroom mirror. Taped to one corner of the mirror is a list of goals -- some personal stuff, some basketball stuff. Some are kept between he and wife Malia, a former ASU volleyball player who is expecting the couple's first child this summer. But just seeing them is enough.
"It's a constant reminder. If you write down goals and never see them, they do no good," Bachynski said. "On my bathroom mirror, it's something that I see every day. I can be reminded of what I'm working for, why I'm doing what I am doing. I read that you have a 90 percent better chance of achieving your goals if you see them every day. In basketball, one of them was to lead the nation in blocked shots and average 'X' rebounds and 'X' points a game. I'm working toward those goals. I'm really close."
“My goal was to lead the nation in blocked shots.I didn't quite get it last year, so I kept that goal on my bathroom mirror.”
It goes without saying that an NBA career is among them. As Bachynski has grown from a 7-0, 180-pound high schooler, his NBA chances have grown proportionately. He is projected to go in the second round of the deep 2014 draft but could go higher, and one former NBA scout has made comparisons to former Illinois center Meyers Leonard, a 7-foot-1 backup for the Trail Blazers.
Bachynski wanted to average four blocked shots a game this season, and through 24 games he is averaging 4.46 after getting 16 combined against the Oregon schools. He saved a 74-72 victory over Oregon by blocking Joseph Young's reverse layup as time expired, the second time he has done that this season. He blocked a last-second shot in a 79-77 victory over Marquette on Nov. 25.
"I'm happy with it, but I am still working hard and not letting up. I have the (career) record, but I am going to do my best to make it harder for the next guy," Bachynski said.
It was hard work getting this far. Bachynski seldom played in his first two seasons while regaining his form following a year lost to a fractured ankle at Findlay Prep and a two-year church mission in south Florida, where he was only allowed to touch a basketball once a week.
"We thought he had awesome potential," Sendek said. "We really had to take one step at a time. It's been a process, but it is really one of the best things that we (coaches) get to do. When you see somebody who grinds and endures the ups and downs and ultimately has a breakthrough, that is so satisfying, especially when it is such a great young man."
Bachynski played 240 minutes as a freshman before cracking the starting lineup for good following a trip to Utah in the second half of his sophomore year.
"My first year and a half, I didn't even smell the court," Bachynski said. "It was a minute here, a minute there. It took a lot to stay focused enough to look toward the future. You just have to keep chopping wood every day."
He admitted that the lack of time occasionally got to him, but he was motivated enough to play through it.
"Definitely," Bachynski said. "It is always tough when you come from being the best guy on your team to coming to a big school in the Pac-12 and not playing. It is tough for a lot of guys. You have to keep your own confidence. That's what a lot of guys don't realize. You can't rely on outside sources for your confidence. Your confidence has to come from within, because there are going to be times when your coaches are on you, when you can't make a bucket to save your life. Confidence that comes from anyone else is fleeting.
"You have to keep telling yourself, 'Keep working and don't turn around.'"