ASU's Bachynski swatting his way through

JOHN MARSHALL (AP Basketball Writer)
The Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- Jordan Bachynski took a few steps away from his usual spot under the basket, wanting to protect against a potential game-winning 3-pointer.

As he moved forward, Arizona State's senior center saw a flash of green moving along the baseline, so he made a quick pivot and headed back toward the hoop.

Oregon's Joseph Young, who almost singlehandedly brought the Ducks back from a 21-point deficit, had broken free and appeared to be open for a tying layup.

Instead, Bachynski swooped across the lane in a couple of giant strides, reached out, and, while fighting off the net, swatted Young's shot to the floor, preserving the Sun Devils' victory.

''When you see where he came from, it's almost like he's got spiderman arms, he just keeps reaching and reaching and growing and growing,'' Arizona State associate head coach Eric Musselman said.

Bachynski has reached new heights in his final season in the desert.

The 7-foot-2 center has been a one-man swatting crew since he arrived in Tempe and is doing it at a record pace this season.

The big Canadian set the Pac-12 record with 120 blocked shots last season and is well on pace to break it with 107 this season, which is more than 264 Division I teams.

Bachynski became the conference's career blocks leader against Oregon State last week, eclipsing the mark of 278 by Arizona's Anthony Cook from 1985-89, and followed that up with his second game-saving block of the season - he also did it on Nov. 25 against Marquette - against the Ducks last Saturday.

''Bachynski seems to get better as his career unfolds,'' said Arizona coach Sean Miller, whose team faces Bachynski and the rival Sun Devils in Tempe on Friday night. ''I don't know if he's ever been playing better.''

He's right.

Bachynski has made a steady climb since arriving at Arizona State in 2010 following a two-year mission, increasing his offensive production and honing his shot-blocking ability.

He made a huge jump this season after playing overseas during the summer, with the Canadian Development National Team in China and in Russia with the Canadian national team at the World University Games.

The summer of competition gave Bachynski a chance to play year-round and gave him a big boost in confidence, on and off the court.

Bachynski had shown flashes of being assertive in the past, but has done it more consistently this season, averaging 12.2 points and 9.1 rebounds while shooting 60 percent and raising his free-throw percentage to 70 percent. Against Oregon, he nearly had his second career triple-double - he's the only player in school history with one - by finishing with a career-high 26 points, nine rebounds and nine blocked shots.

''I got to play in games, I had great coaches coach me and tell me how to better my game, help me better my game,'' Bachynski said. ''That's the tough thing about college basketball, during the offseason you're not allowed to get coaching. There's so much you can do on your own, but if you're not practicing the right way, you're not going to get better.''

Bachynski's future as a player will hinge on his ability to swat shots.

He's a good rebounder and has been working on his offense to become a better NBA prospect, but the money will be made from his ability to protect the rim.

Bachynski already has an advantage being a 7-footer with extra-long arms, but not all tall players are necessarily good shot blockers.

Bachynski is because he combines his length with good footwork and impeccable timing.

Both came naturally.

When Bachynski was in high school, he was a rail-thin 180 pounds, so he had to rely on his agility and quickness to get to shots. As his college career has progressed, Bachynski has worked to enhance his footwork with Arizona State's coaches and, combined with his knack for knowing when to go after a shot, has become the best shot blocker in college basketball.

''There's a lot of 7-footers good at blocking the shot of the man they're defending, but he's awesome at coming from the weak side,'' Musselman said. ''He's got a great wingspan and a feel for when to jump and when to stay on the ground. It's kind of an innate thing, it's not really taught. It's just something you either have or don't have.''

What to Read Next