One of the big Canadian names at the Raptors first day of NBA pre-draft workouts in Toronto was the Arizona State 7’2 senior Jordan Bachynski. Bachynski’s size was verified at the NBA Draft Combine where he was the tallest player measured and at 254 lbs with just 7.5 percent body fat, the 24-year-old has grown into a man’s body. By any measure, Bachynski passes the eye test as a possible NBA center.
The big man is known for his defense in the paint and the Pac-12 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year averaged 4 blocks per game last season, is the Pac-12 Conference career record holder with 314 blocked shots and led the nation with 133 blocks as a senior. Last year he had 3 blocks at the end of games that secured the win for the Sun Devils.
As an older prospect, Bachynski is fighting for a spot in the second round of the NBA draft, but watching this surprisingly mobile 7-footer going through drills with the Raptors, he is a player that should get noticed. He kind of looks like a version of the Spurs Tiago Splitter, but with a lot more natural shot blocking ability. Besides, Bachynski likes to say that he is an old head on a young body and he isn’t worried about being perceived as too old for the draft.
“Those draft boards as fun as they are to look at and when you are in college, when you get on a draft board it’s big news, but one thing I’ve come to learn is that no one knows the future,” Bachynski said. “I just try to stay focused and do the things I can do and another thing, they don’t take into account team need. There are very few bigs in this draft and there is a big need for bigs and especially rim protectors. Everywhere I go, every workout I’ve done, they all stress defense and that’s something I am excellent at. I think I am going to surprise a lot of people. I’ve been undervalued my whole career, a little known guy out of Calgary Alberta. There are not many basketball players that come out of there.
“I am an old head on a young body. I took three years off from basketball, one year for ankle surgery and two years for my mission, so my mind may be 24, but my body is actually only 21 because I got that time off from basketball and I was a late bloomer. Coming out of high school I was soaking wet with towels on 210 pounds, (this) just (gave) my body a little more time to mature and it gave me the time I needed to progress and being from Calgary, it is very hard to get good coaching in Calgary because it’s not a big basketball city and it took me to get to ASU to finally get some good coaching.”
Bachynski took a Mormon mission before starting his college basketball career, so he didn’t start until after most of the kids from his high school year who were going to turn pro had already moved on. It was a slow start as well. Bachynski only averaged 2.8 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10 minutes as a college rookie, but successive seasons saw huge strides in minutes played and production. Bachynski needed all four college seasons to develop his skills and by the end, he showed the potential to become a dominant post player after ASU.
“My role at ASU was a defensive presence,” Bachynski said. “To protect the rim and that’s something that I prided myself on. I am a team guy. I do what my coaches want me to do. Did I like that I didn’t get all the shots I wanted – no, everyone wants more shots. Even if you all the shots, you still want more shots and I embraced my role at ASU, but I felt I also showed that when I did get the ball, I was effective. I think I averaged something like 5 (or) 6 touches a game and I scored 12 points. In the tournament I got the ball a lot more and I was able to score 27 points on really good bigs and I think that shows that given the opportunity, given the ball down low, I can do something good with it.
Bachynski had 4 games with 20 or more points as a senior including a 25 point, 7 rebound effort in the Sun Devil’s 87-85 loss to seventh seeded Texas in the tournament. However, it’s what Bachynski describes as his best skill that might just get him on an NBA team next season. Late second round picks or undrafted free agent pickups have to fit in and if Bachynski is true to his word, he is a player worth taking a chance on for the back end of a roster to see what he’s got.
“The one thing I feel I really bring to the table is just energy and positivity,” Bachynski said. “Both those things are contagious and they are what guys need. One of my coaches at ASU would say you are either an energy-sucker or an energy-giver and I want to be one of those guys that you want to play with. That brings you up when you are not playing well because if you are not finishing at the hoop, you know that, the last thing you need is for someone to say finish at the hoop – well, no kidding. So you need someone that is going to pick you up, someone to tell you it’s okay, move on to the next play and that’s what I try to do for my teammates – be a guy they like to play with. I am not one of those tall guys that plays just because he is tall. I truly do love the game. I love to compete. I love to get better.”
This senior is more mature than the typical NBA draft prospect. He has seen more of the world than most, he has a dog, is married and has a child on the way. Bachynski is a late bloomer whose game has grown dramatically over four college seasons and it appears that he has the work ethic and the experience necessary to keep improving even if he doesn’t see a lot of court time in the NBA right away.
It would be pretty hard not to be impressed with how this young man presents himself.
Will The Toronto Raptors Draft A Canadian In 2014?
Finally, in 2014, the stars may be aligned so Toronto can draft a Canadian basketball player. The Raptors hold draft picks at 20, 37 and 59 this year and GM Masai Ujiri has shown a lot of skill at the art of the deal, so if there is a player to be drafted he wants that doesn’t fit with his available selections, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he can pull off a deal to make it happen.