TEMPE, Ariz. — To his teammates and head coach, it came as no surprise senior center Jordan Bachynski was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
“He told me (before the season) he was going to get it. He said, ‘I’m going to get it. I’m going to break the (shot block) records.’ Kudos to him,” said Jahii Carson, who earned first team All-Pac-12 honors for the second straight year.
Bachynski is the first Sun Devil to be voted the conference’s defensive player of the year.
“It’s a huge honor,” Bachynski said on Monday after practice. “I pride myself on my defense and it feels good to be recognized for that.”
A strong presence inside, intimidating even at times, the 7-foot-2 Bachynski established a Pac-12 single-season record for blocked shots, breaking the previous mark, which he had set the year before.
Among his 131 blocked shots were game-saving blocks at the buzzer to preserve wins over Marquette, Oregon and then-No. 2 Arizona.
“He’s anchored us in the middle,” head coach Herb Sendek said. “Not just the shots that he alters the trajectory of but how about the shots where he gets in the head of somebody whose driving like wonder where he is even if he’s on the bench. It’s impossible to quantify that, but I’ve got to believe…that it does have an impact.”
Bachynski, who was also named second team all-conference, led the nation in blocks, averaging 4.23 per game.
“I always have goals that I strive for and that was one of them,” he said.
Bachynski was more than just a shot blocker this season for ASU. He controlled the paint, using his size and agility to grab a team-high and 8.4 rebounds per game, good for sixth-best in the conference.
Of course it’s his ability to block, alter and disrupt shots that most helped the Sun Devils.
Bachynski is the Pac-12 career leader in blocked shots with 309.
“I’ve always been a little undersized and so I had to learn how to play defense another way as opposed to banging in the post. That’s when I learned how to block shots,” he said.
“(Assistant coach Eric Musselman) always says that defense is huge. I remember one thing he said was everyone in the NBA Development League can score. What sets the NBA guys and the D-League guys apart is their defense. That’s something I’ve always strived, that’s something that sets me apart. It’s something I love to do.”