There was a feeling of enjoyment watching Jordan Bachynski set the Pac-12 career record for blocked shots Thursday night in a win over Oregon State at Wells Fargo Arena. Bachynski is not James Harden, Ike Diogu or Eddie House. He is not a Sun Devil superstar destined to play in the NBA.
Bachynski has had to work, and work hard, for everything that is coming to him. He missed three years of basketball between his senior year of high school in Calgary and his two-year Mormon mission in Miami. So it's fair to say by the time he enrolled at Arizona State he was way behind.
When he showed up in 2010 he was nothing more than another project, tremendous size at 7-foot-2 and 250 pounds, but raw -- very raw. In fact, not much was thought of him at the time with the feeling being he was just another big body, another stiff center. And in his first two years he did nothing to discount that.
In his first season as a freshman, he averaged 2.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in 10 minutes a game. As a sophomore, he split time with Ruslan Pateev and averaged 6.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 17.4 minutes.
Needless to say that if anyone said Bachynski could make a living playing basketball at that time they would have been laughed out of Arizona.
Not even Bachysnki was thinking about the NBA at that time. What he was focused on was getting better, day after day, week after week and month after month. He was relentless in his work and desire to improve. He had his priorities in order.
And as a junior his hard work paid off. He had his breakout game at home against UCLA when he was a one-man wrecking crew in dismantling the Bruins with 22 points on 10-12 shooting with 15 rebounds and six blocked shots in a 78-60 win. That game got him noticed. It put the attention on him. It turned some heads. He finished that season with solid numbers of 9.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.4 blocks.
But more importantly, it drove him to be even better. For the first time the NBA wasn't a pipe dream -- it was a realistic goal. But he knew it would take more work, more time, more effort.
What has helped him through this process has been that he is grounded. Bachynski is married, and he and his wife are expecting a son in June. Being grounded has kept his focus on his family, schoolwork and basketball.
This season, along with Jahii Carson, Bachynski is leading the Devils in their quest to reach the NCAA Tournament. At 17-6, 6-4 they are in good position to reach the big dance for the first time since 2009.
The 24-year-old center is averaging 11.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 4.3 blocks while remarkably playing 30 minutes per game. With his seventh and final blocked shot of the overtime win against the Beavers Thursday night, he surpassed the conference record of 278 blocked shots set by Arizona's Anthony Cook.
With eight conference games left, he should easily surpass 300 blocked shots in his career. And while blocking shots is what he is known for, his improved footwork, scoring and free throw shooting is what has helped catch the attention of NBA scouts. Using visualization tactics, a sports therapist and focus, Bachynski has gone from a 50 percent free throw shooter in his first season to 68 percent this year.
The NBA will call likely in the second round of the June draft. And with his work ethic, there is no reason to believe he won't find a way to make a roster and make a good living playing the game he loves.