Pac-12 Senior Days: Go Ahead and Hate Jordan BachynskiPosted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on March 5th, 2014
If you’re a college basketball player at a major program, one of the greatest compliments that can be paid to you is to be “hated.” We’re talking sports-hate here, not the real derogatory, run-down, kind of hate, but hate inspired by a player’s ability to act as a thorn in the side of opposing teams. It took some time for Arizona State’s Jordan Bachynski to come by that kind of desirable hate, but he certainly has, and he’s come by it honestly. That’s the kind of thing that happens when you play four seasons on your way to becoming the Pac-12’s all-time leading shot-blocker. Just flipping through Twitter on Tuesday night, you read things like “Flopynski” and comparisons to Vlade Divac or soccer players taking dives. Let me remind you, this is a guy with 309 blocked shots in his career, not exactly the kind of stat that indicates a guy that spends a ton of time flopping around the basketball court.
But really, the sheer fact that Bachynski has generated this type of feeling from opponents and opposing fans is proof of the accomplishments the 7’2” Albertan has under his belt. He arrived in Tempe at the age of 21, having completed his LDS mission between the end of high school and the start of his college career, meaning he went almost three years (factor in an ankle injury his senior year in high school that limited his ability to play at Findlay Prep) without playing competitive basketball prior to first donning a Sun Devil uniform. As a result, the long and lanky center needed time to build strength and conditioning, work on coordination and skill, and just get used to the new level of competition. It took him the better part of two years, but down the stretch of his sophomore season, he began to show glimpses of the player he would become. In the last 13 games of 2011-12, he averaged better than 10 points per game, knocked in better than 70 percent of his free throws (quite an accomplishment for a sub-50% guy to that point) and began to show his dominance as a rim protector, rejecting an average of two shots per game over that stretch.
Those were the first glimpses, and after showing improvement in fits and starts, the guy that shows up every night wearing that #13 Arizona State jersey is the very guy the best of those early glimpses promised. He works hard every night – and perhaps more importantly, every day, even when the lights aren’t shining bright. He patrols the paint with a 7’4” wingspan that appears at times to take up the bulk of the area from block to block in the lane. He does a good job positioning himself to keep tabs on his defensive assignment, while staying ready to challenge any penetration coming at him. That ability, and his commitment to the role of the consummate rim protector, tends to frustrate and embarrass opposing players, taking them out of their game and giving the emotional edge to the Sun Devils. Is he a pain in the ass? You’re damn right he is. And his coach, teammates, and Sun Devil fans love him because of it. You, the opposing player, ready to deliver a cheap shot in frustration; you, the opposing fan, ready to express your hatred for him? That’s merely a byproduct of him committing to his role: to frustrate; to bother; to discourage; to annoy. And he’s very good at it.
Listen though, that defensive ability is one thing. But he’s 7’2” with an even longer wingspan; he’s supposed to be a frustratingly good shot-blocker. What he has developed into offensively? That is the surest sign of his commitment to hard work and to becoming the very best Jordan Bachynski he can be. That free throw line improvement back in his sophomore campaign has continued – he’s shooting right around 70 percent from the stripe this season – and trending upwards. He’s making 55 percent of his shots from the field, and has developed a handful of decent go-to moves in the post. He’s a good enough offensive rebounder (especially for a team that doesn’t put a ton of energy into offensive rebounding). In other words, on a team that can be offensively challenged at times, Bachynski has turned into a force for good on the offensive end, something that no one would have suspected early in his career.
So, yeah, go ahead and hate on Jordan Bachynski. Call the leading shot-blocker in the history of the conference (nevermind for a second that blocked shots were not an official statistic back in the days of Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton) a flopper. Make fun of the offensive skills of a guy who has turned himself into an efficient double-figure scorer at the highest level of college hoops. Hell, go ahead and get right to the point and expresses your hate for Bachynski with this crowd. Hopefully Jordan can read that one day and take it for what that type of tweet really is: a sign of respect.