Jordan Bachynski had been in this situation before. In fact, he's been there on more than one occasion. The NCAA's leader in blocked shots has saved three games for Arizona State this season blocking shots at the buzzer.
This time, in his first NCAA tournament game, Bachynski challenged Texas centre Cameron Ridley's lay-up, which narrowly escaped the Calgary, Alberta native's 7'4 wingspan with milliseconds left on the clock. The ball bounced off the backboard and into the net for an 87-85 buzzer-beater win. Arizona State was sent home after falling short of a hard fought first round upset, ending a season which saw them in the tournament for the first time in five years. It also capped a standout collegiate career for Bachynski, who in his senior year bettered his individual stats each season as his team's record improved as well.
TSN.ca spoke with the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year prior to the NCAA Tournament about his goals, his game and what's next.
What goals did you set for yourself as a team and individually this year?
As a team, it was to make it to the NCAA Tournament. Most of the guys on our team haven't ever been to the tournament - me included. So that's a huge goal, and to be able to do that and we felt we had a really strong team and guys that can help us get there. My main goal this year was to lead the nation in blocked shots because that's something I knew I would be able to excel at and so I was able to meet that goal.
What is your approach or technique to blocking shots?
It's not something I really think about; it's something that comes naturally to me. Our defense is set up for me to help the guys on D. Coach Sendek actually completely changed the defensive strategy when I started to show that I had a knack for blocking shots. There were two games where I had a bunch of blocked shots and so the coaches saw that as such a huge asset for us and changed what we play to more help side man-to-man and I've loved it. I love playing help side where a man is coming down the pike and I just get to step up and block his shot.
How does it feel to be recognized as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year?
It's a huge honour, especially with the tradition of the Pac-12 and how it has produced such great players and such great big men. Some of the best big men ever to play the game came for the Pac-10/Pac-12. It's just an honour to be recognized as a defensive presence in such a great conference.
It's an interesting time for Canadians in the NCAA. What does that say about the growth of Canadian basketball?
Canadian basketball is on its way up. This summer I had a great opportunity to play with Team Canada's Development Team and there are some great players. Especially Melvin Ejim, who is doing amazing things. He just got named Player of the Year in his conference and me and him still keep in touch. Watching Brady Heslip knock shots down at Baylor and Kevin Pangos at Gonzaga and playing against Dwight Powell at Stanford, Canada basketball has really stepped up in college this year. It's crazy.
What's next for you after you graduate? Is the NBA in the cards for you?
That's definitely in the cards for me. I'm working as hard as I can to get there. The NCAA Tournament would be huge for me. The national exposure and playing on that big stage and showing what type of player that I am, the defensive stopper that I am and the scorer that I am, and to play with my team is the main thing. Right now I want to get to the NBA, but the most important thing to me is that my team wins and that's what I'm working for. So if that means that I have to take one less shot to pass it up to someone who has a better shot I'm willing to do that because I want to win. Not a lot of guys realize that you can be a great player on a bad team and no one is going to notice you, so you need to make those guys around you better if you want to get noticed. Coaches and scouts are going to notice that and by helping your team win, by doing the right thing and playing the right way, you actually are giving yourself a better look at the next level.