Arizona State's Jordan Bachynski used to be inconsistent. He used to rarely notch double-doubles. He used to come up gasping for breath because of conditioning issues. He used to be timid. And he used to fall short of expectations.
But that was before Bachynski blossomed.
During the past three years, Bachysnki has steadily overcame his aforementioned issues. This season, it's coming altogether.
Herb Sendek claims Bachynski could be the most improved player in college basketball. And his numbers support that claim.
"Well [Bachynski] is a key player for us. He's off to a tremendous start this year," Sendek said. "In [eleven] games, he has [eight] double-doubles, which leads our conference. He's first in blocked shots with 4.5 a game. He also ranks very high in field goal percentage and in both offensive and defensive rebounding. So he really has been a stat-sheet-stuffer for us. That kind of presence not only anchors our defense, but it allows us to play through him on offense."
The 7'2", 248-pound center is averaging 12.9 points and 10 rebounds per game. Through his entire 2012 campaign, Bachynski logged 10+ rebounds only five times. Ten games into the 2013 season, Bachynski has already tallied 10+ rebounds on seven separate occasions.
Bachynski credits the Arizona State coaching staff and a unique experience he had this past summer for the progress he's shown through the non-conference circuit of the 2013-2014 season.
"First of all, the coaching staff here have done a phenomenal job of being great coaches," Bachynski said. "They know their stuff and really help me develop and hone my skills. Definitely playing with the Canadian National this summer really helped. I got more game experience and more coaching from phenomenal coaches."
Sendek pointed to Bachynski's improved strength and new-found confidence as the reasons he has been able to take the next step. Bachysnki agrees with the breakdown sharing he feels "really good" confidence-wise.
You work hard every day and your confidence is going to be built," said Bachynski.
His dedication started in the offseason. Before points could be scored, rebounds could be hauled in and shots could be blocked, Bachynski needed to get into better shape. He tackled his regimen and trained tirelessly.
"This years preseason training was really tough. Our strength coach did a really good job with us," Bachynski said. "[He] just pushed us really hard [in the] early morning. I can't even explain how hard it was. But it has really paid off for the entire team."
The extra minutes on the court are turning into more blocked shots, an area that was already a trademark of Bachynski's game. The 942 student section recently came up with the nickname "Blockchynski" and the senior makes sure they chant it often. Bachynski owns 229 career blocks, fourth in Pac-12 history. Anthony Cook of University of Arizona sits atop the list with 278 but if Bachysnki matches his output from last season (120), he'll have no problem moving to the top before long.
Averaging 4.5 blocks per game in 2013, Bachynski is currently on pace for 90.5 more on the season without factoring in conference play or an NCAA/NIT birth. While that frequency is unlikely to hold, it's still stunning to imagine that it would result in 318.5 career swats, 40 blocks over Cook's record.
When asked about what his hunt, Bachynski didn't sugar coat it; he admitted the accomplishment would mean everything.
"It's a great honor to even be in the running for that. I've said it before, it's only because our coaches here have been able to put me in a system where I'm able to block shots," Bachynski. "We went from a matchup zone where I wasn't around the basket and had to close out to the wing a lot. And now we have me more around the basket and playing more help side, which helps the block game."
Through the good times and bad times, Bachynski had one constant: elite defense. Bachynski protects the paint without relent, regularly altering shots with his reach.
"[Defense] is one thing I've always been good at," Bachynski said. "[Defense] is one thing I pride myself in."
The entire Arizona State team has more opportunities to thrive because of Bachynski. If someone misses, Bachynski keeps the scoring chance alive. If someone gets beat off the dribble, Bachynski masks the mistake around the rim.
The uncharted water for Bachynski can be seen most clearly with his aggressive approach. In years past, Bachynski looked locked in on one night and lethargic another night. Even the coaches didn't know what Bachynski would come out of the locker room. Now the combination his developed skills and his strike first attitude are placing him in the spotlight.
Bachynski knows the stakes are high for himself and for the team, leading to the monumental strides. The current level of progress won't be enough. He understands the hurdles are only beginning, especially if he wants to carry over this impact to the professional level.
"We got a lot riding on this year," said Bachysnki. "It's my last year and I still have a lot to prove."