In the waning minutes of last Saturday's scrimmage at Wells Fargo Arena, head coach Herb Sendek debuted a front court that instantly caught fans attention: the 7'0" Ruslan Pateev next to the 7'2" Jordan Bachynski. And while they might not quite be a Ralph Sampson/Hakeem Olajuwon-like duo, it's a pairing that ASU fans might be seeing a lot of this upcoming season.
"We have been practicing that a little in the offseason," Bachynski said. "One of us will have a mismatch so that's really something we can exploit."
Yes, that's right. Most teams don't have the luxury of one seven-footer. The Sun Devils will be featuring two on the court at times in the upcoming months.With Head Coach Herb Sendek looking to not be "self-limiting" having only nine scholarship players on his roster, experiments like this one will be witnessed all season. And Sendek had one reassurance for those worried about the offense being a little less mobile with the two centers on the court: "Both of [these] guys can move pretty well."
In fact, Bachynski, sophomore, has looked to improve his offensive repertoire by adding a mid-range jumper to his game, which he featured with impressive results in the most recent scrimmage.
"I have been looking to extend my range a little," Bachynski said. "Last year, I [relied on] basically mostly dunks. I want to be able to not only have the threat of the dunk but also the outside shot."
After averaging 2.8 points a game in 24 appearance last year, the towering southpaw has developed a friendly competition with fellow big man Pateev, junior, to challenge each other to improve on both ends of the court.
"Me and [Pateev] have a big rivalry in practice," Bachynski joked. "We're constantly pushing each other and making each other better."
While Sendek and Sun Devil fans everywhere hope for a breakthrough season from Bachynski or Pateev after finishing 300th nationally in rebounds (32 pg) and 209th in field goal percentage (43%) they can take comfort in one fact: Bachynski had his best games against Pac-12 opponents. The player affectionately nicknamed "the Stormin' Mormon" by fans had a season high seven points against UCLA and Washington, wrangled in a season-high six boards against Oregon and Washington State, then swatted four shots against in-state rival Arizona in one of his best games of the year.
Those are the stats you look for after finishing last in the Pac-10 last season (4-14). For now though, these two behemoths are looking to improve together and build that chemistry that's desperately needed to get out of the conference's cellar.
"Rus and I [are connecting] a lot better," Bachynski said. "We're able to work off each other's strengths."