Utah men's basketball: Bachynski making most of second chance
The tall, blond, muscular kid from Canada walked into Tommy Connor's office at the University of Utah last October. He was armed with nothing more than his own limited game film and the hope that a school any school would see enough potential to offer him a scholarship.
At that point, basketball had given Dallin Bachynski mixed results. He had spent a frustrating year at Southern Utah, and had lost confidence in his own game as his playing time at SUU dwindled to almost zero. He had gone on a two-year LDS Church mission to Croatia, but that was finished as well. He still loved the game, but he wasn't so sure the game loved him back.
He wanted to play. Somewhere. Anywhere.
"I remember them telling me that they would take a look, but that they couldn't make me any promises," Bachynski said.
As Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak's top assistant, what Connor needed was players. The Utes' new coaching staff was attempting to replenish a depleted roster. He took a look at Bachynski's highlights. He found himself intrigued. The Utah coaches called Bachynski back within 24 hours and offered him a scholarship, which he accepted a few days later.
"Utah State also offered me," Bachynski said. "So I went from having nowhere to play to having options in a short period of time. I guess you can say I'm blessed."
Today, Bachynski is the starting center for the Utes, a sophomore scarcely a year removed from the biggest uncertainty of his life. On campus, the Calgary, Alberta, native is the latest in a long line of Canadians to play for Utah, joining a current group that includes Michelle Plouffe and Taryn Wicijowski from the women's team. In a college basketball world where players are coddled, Bachynski is a self-made man.
A few weeks ago, he made his starting debut against Idaho State and went off for 22 points and 16 rebounds, numbers not seen in the Huntsman Center by a first-year player since the days of Andrew Bogut.
And while Bachynski knows more than anyone that he's just scratching the surface of what he can be, what he is now already appears to be a good fit for Utah's lineup.
On a team clamoring for toughness, Bachynski provides it. On a team that needs rebounding, Bachynski leads the way with nine per game. For a team that last year lacked an interior defensive presence, Bachynski blocks 1.7 shots per game. Heck, the 7-footer has even knocked down a few 3-pointers.
"The best thing about Dallin is that he's physical," Krystkowiak said. "He's never been afraid to stick his nose in there and do the dirty work. He's a presence on both ends of the floor, and that's what we need from our big men."
Coming from a basketball family in hockey-crazy Calgary, it would have been difficult to imagine Bachynski as an enforcer if you had known him in his younger days. His parents John and Yolanda met amid the bumps and elbows of a pick-up basketball game, and soon discovered they had much more in common than hoops.
Yolanda was a 6-2 forward and played college basketball in Canada. John, 6-5, played high school ball. Together, the two produced not only Dallin, but also Jordan Bachynski, a 7-2 center for Arizona State. A third child, Jessica, is a forward at Utah Valley.
They taught their children to be kind to others and to always do a good deed. And it worked almost to a fault.
"Particularly with Dallin, but all of them grew up to be very nice," John Bachynski said. "That can be a detriment on a basketball court, where you have to have a nasty streak."
So John, who coached his kids as they grew up, gave them each alter egos, personas to adopt when they were on the court. Jordan now a starter as a junior for the Sun Devils became Wolverine, a fierce comic book character. Dallin became Batman.
For the Bachynskis, the journey to Utah from Canada originated from basketball. While Dallin's older brother shined at an AAU tournament in Las Vegas, Southern Utah latched on to Dallin and offered him a full ride, which he accepted.
His year in Cedar City was the most frustrating of his life at least as far as basketball was concerned.
Bachynski appeared in 29 games, but averaged just 3.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per contest. More concerning was the fact that he didn't fit in athletically. He became more isolated as the season progressed. He lost confidence in his abilities. Eventually, he knew he was going to transfer, even though he had nowhere to play.
"I wasn't getting a ton of playing time, so I just kind of regressed," Bachynski said. "I loved Southern Utah as a school. I had a great time there, and I had a great relationship with my teachers. It just didn't work for me in basketball."
Basketball is working out for Bachynski at Utah. He's added 30 pounds of muscle since his SUU days, plus more confidence, more maturity and a belief that he can succeed on the court. Coaches and teammates laud his work ethic. And yet, there is a sense that Bachynski is still barely scratching the surface of his potential.
"Once he figures out how to really play, he's going to be scary," point guard Glen Dean said. "There aren't too many big men that are as athletic as Dallin. He can be something if he keeps working hard."
Dallin Bachynski file
Height • 7-0
Weight • 248 pounds
Hometown • Calgary, Alberta
Stats • 11.5 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game
Prior to Utah • Went on LDS Church mission to Croatia; also played at Southern Utah
The debut • Scored 22 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in his first start against Idaho State
Boise State at Utah
P Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network