ASU's Jonathan Gilling, right, tries to block the shot of Stanford's Aaron Bright during last week's Pac-12 tournament. Both teams accepted NIT bids Sunday.


TEMPE - Even as a high school senior, Jordan Bachynski was bruised and battered by opposing big men, who plowed into the center, knocking him backward to try to score.

He stood 6 feet 11 inches tall, but weighed only 180 pounds.

"I was a twig," said Bachynski, who averaged 8.7 blocks as a senior at Centennial High School in Calgary, Alberta. "I had to find a way to affect them, because I couldn't affect them with my body.

"I learned out of necessity to block shots."

It seems funny now, that the 7-foot-1 - in socks - Arizona State center perfected his most valuable skill only as a last resort.

The junior averages 4.5 blocks per game, tied for third-most in the country, entering Saturday's rivalry game against the Arizona Wildcats at Wells Fargo Arena.

Entering this week, the 23-year-old Bachynski's 76 blocks were more than that of 284 schools.

His prowess this season - Bachynski had 61 blocks in his first two college years combined - can be traced to a few factors.

He said he's still getting his timing back after spending two years on a Mormon mission before he enrolled at ASU in 2010.

"Shot-blocking is largely an instinctual thing," ASU coach Herb Sendek said. "Some guys have the ability to do it."

Arizona State switched from a 2-3 matchup zone defense to man-to-man this season, which means Bachynski no longer has to sprint to the corner on rotations to try to defend a three-point shot.

"It's put Jordan in a position to protect the basket more," senior wing Carrick Felix said, "To be more effective on defense."

Said point guard Jahii Carson: "Jordan's not going to let anybody come in there and get easy buckets."

The Wildcats have their own game plan.

"We like to get bigs in foul trouble," UA forward Solomon Hill said.

When Bachynski blocks shots, they don't go far. More than 60 percent end up in the hands of teammates - a feat in an era when athletes try to catapult balls into the seventh row. Bachynski does that sometimes, too.

"I love swatting it to my own team, but there are times when you want to send a statement," he said.

"Everyone wants to make it on 'SportsCenter,' but you have to kinda take a deep breath and help your team."

It impressed Oregon State coach Craig Robinson, who said this week Bachynski's ability to tap the ball to teammates "makes him a great shot-blocker."

Sean Miller isn't buying intent as a reason the ball lands in ASU's arms.

"I don't know how that makes sense," the UA coach said. "I think that's something that I think sounds good - 'I'm going to block it but I'm not going to touch it quite as hard so it goes to my teammates.'

"I just know he blocks a ton of shots. Sometimes he knocks them into the stands. Once in a while he smashes them off the backboard.

"And, no question, once in a while it goes to his teammates, and sometimes the other team gets it back."

Larry Krystkowiak, the Utah coach and former NBA forward, is convinced Bachynski spends some possessions "setting guys up," so he can block them later in the game.

"I've seen him in games," he said. "He'll block three shots on one trip."

Bachynski admitted to playing possum sometimes, but said the result is worth it.

"I don't always set the guy up to block his shot," he said. "My favorite is when I'm in the middle of the key and I make eye contact with the opposing forward and he thinks he's wide open for a dunk.

"I just think, 'ooh, I love this.'"

Block party

Jordan Bachynski's shot-blocking stats, by the numbers:


Games in which Bachynski has had nine or more blocks (only four such games by other ASU players in coach Herb Sendek's tenure).


His total, more than 284 entire schools entering the week


Blocks needed to pass Channing Frye's 2004-05 season for sixth place in conference history.


Bachynski's blocks per game, the third-best mark in the nation