Dallin Bachynski said he was selfish. Wasn’t mentally in control. Put his needs before the needs of his teammates.
In college basketball — where self-awareness can be a fleeting thing — it’s difficult to look into the mirror and see yourself as the problem. It’s even tougher to admit that to your coaches, your teammates, your family and the media.
That’s what Bachynski had to face up to last season after he briefly left the team by mutual agreement with Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak.
The more important part of the story, though, is that he came back and is still here. Not only that, Bachynski has emerged as a critical piece for the Utes at both ends of the floor going into Sunday’s game at Washington State — a development that has been gratifying to both Bachynski and those around him.
The reality is, he was close to being done as a Ute. Now, the 7-foot, 255-pound junior is the team’s most physical interior presence. At one time, Bachynski was a mess, mentally. Now he appears much stronger than he was at any point last season — though like anybody else, he remains a work in progress.
“I really did have a selfish aspect to the game,” Bachynski said. “If I didn’t get the minutes I thought I deserved, it was messing with me. I had the wrong mindset towards the game. But having the coaches and my teammates support me was a big deal. I didn’t realize how much they would be there for me when I needed it. That’s the biggest thing with this team, everyone’s so unselfish.”
It all started to unravel last January. Bachynski began the year as a starter, wresting the position away from Jason Washburn with some big performances early in the schedule — the biggest being a 22-point, 16-rebound performance against Idaho State. Everyone could see the potential. He’s equipped with an NBA body, yet he moves like a man much smaller. He showed glimpses of dominance offensively and was the best shot blocker on the roster.
But Washburn improved immeasurably on his way to a breakout senior season. And as his minutes increased, Bachynski’s dwindled. That was something Bachynski said he couldn’t deal with. He started putting pressure on himself. When he did receive minutes, he tried to do too much with them. He tried to be perfect, and it backfired. Soon, he was supplanted by Jeremy Olsen as the back-up and began receiving only spot minutes here and there.
“My mind just wasn’t where it needed to be,” Bachynski said.
Things came to a head with his teammates and coaches. After a loss to California, Krystkowiak questioned whether Bachynski was on the same page with the program. The next week, Bachynski took an indefinite leave of absence that lasted about 24 hours.
But during that week, things started to turn around and improve. Bachynski and his brother Jordan — an all-conference center at Arizona State — had several productive talks. He told him to find success in what he does, to not worry about scoring, to do the little things.
“We just told him that we love him and we all want him to succeed,” Jordan Bachynski said. “If Dallin went into the game and got a rebound, that’s a great thing. If he played a good three minutes, that was a great thing. We know what kind of talent he has, and how much he’s capable of. We just told him that he’s going to succeed.”
Considering where Bachynski was, his comeback has been nothing short of impressive. He finished last season as the Utes’ third big man, contributing when he could. He stood out for his positive attitude on the bench, often being the first to cheer a good play or give a teammate a pat on the back.
Not much was expected coming into this season, but Bachynski has made a big impact. He dominated heralded BYU freshman Eric Mika for stretches in Utah’s win over the Cougars, scoring 11 points and grabbing eight rebounds in 19 minutes.
He scored 11 points and hauled in 12 rebounds in a near upset of top-10 Oregon. He and Krystkowiak talked before the season, and his coach made things simple. Don’t try to score 25 a night, Krystkowiak told Bachynski. Go out there and be an energy guy. Get rebounds, fly around and be a junkyard dog.
Bachynski has done that and more. He averages six points and five rebounds a game. But he’s the best shot blocker and low-post defensive presence on the team. He shares time with Olsen and Renan Lenz but offers up a whole different look — for his team and opponents — on the court.
“I’m pleased for everyone on our team,” Krystkowiak said. “It’s a journey for every single one. Dallin’s went through his journey and came out better for it. He’s handled success and dealt with adversity and he’s becoming a man. He knows that the team is the most important thing and that’s what we preach.”
For evidence of Bachynski’s maturation, don’t look at his big games. Glance instead at his lowest moments of the season, most notably his turnover that enabled Oregon to score the game-winning dunk a little over a week ago. Bachynski didn’t shy away from the mistake. Instead, he owned it, both in the locker room and before the media.
Against Oregon State two days later, he didn’t score a point or grab a rebound. But he was grinning from ear-to-ear because Olsen had a career-high 14 points in his first career start.
Those are the little things Bachynski wouldn’t have done last season. But the journey Krystkowiak talks about has takent him far. And Bachynski says he’s better for it.
And so are the Utes.
Dallin Bachynski file
• 7-foot, 255 pounds, junior
• From Calgary, Alberta
• Is the younger brother of Jordan Bachynski, a senior center at Arizona State.
• Began his career at Southern Utah.
• Averages six points and five rebounds per game.
• Scored 11 points and grabbed 12 rebounds against Oregon.
Utah at Washington State
Sunday, 5 p.m.
TV • Pac-12 Network