SALT LAKE CITY — A year ago about this time, University of Utah newcomer Dallin Bachynski looked like the next big thing in Utah basketball.
The 7-foot Bachynski supplanted two-year starter Jason Washburn in the starting lineup for a nine-game period and put together a string of strong performances, including a 22-point, 16-rebound outing against Idaho State and a 16-point, 6-rebound game vs. Wright State.
Then as fast as he burst on the scene, Bachynski suddenly disappeared.
His playing time diminished to next to nothing. There were reports of attitude issues and depression and Bachynski even took a short leave of absence from the team in late January. In Pac-12 play, he scored a grand total of 10 points and didn’t even play in six games.
Now Bachynski is back and although he isn’t putting up some of the big numbers of a year ago, he’s contributing to the Ute team and drawing praise from his coach almost every time he plays. He's expected to be a big part of the Utes’ team as it heads into Pac-12 play in a couple of weeks.
Last week against Idaho State, a year after his big game in 2012, Bachynski didn’t even get into the game until the second half. But once he did, he helped fuel a big comeback in a 74-66 victory, prompting Utah coach Larry Krystkowiak to call him “the MVP” of the game for his seven points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 14 minutes.
Four days later against BYU, Bachynski came in and again gave the Utes a boost with a couple of early baskets and rebounds on his way to an 11-point, 8-rebound night in an 81-64 victory.
Both Krystkowiak and Bachynski prefer not to go into details of exactly what happened last year, but both are willing to acknowledge there were some problems and the main thing is Bachynski has become a vital part of this year’s team with a new role that he’s been willing to accept.
“I’ve started realizing my role is to do what my team needs me to do,’’ Bachynski says. “They don’t need me to drop 20 every night. As long as I get some easy buckets, get some boards, block out, block shots — I’m not going to do anything too crazy. That’s my role now and I completely accept it.’’
Bachynski, whose older brother, Jordan, has been a three-year starter for Arizona State, joined the Utes last year after serving an LDS Church mission to Croatia. A native of Calgary, Canada, Bachynski began his college career at Southern Utah under coach Roger Reid. Following his mission, he was looking for a change and a rebuilding Utah program was happy to take the athletic, 250-pound, 7-footer.
It took just three games for him to oust Washburn from the starting lineup, but just before the start of league play, Washburn regained his starter’s role and Bachynski fell into a downward spiral.
“He came into a program and had to deal with some adversity,’’ says Krystkowiak. “You’ve got to be able to handle success. Initially he had 16 rebounds and 22 points against Idaho State and they started talking about putting him on billboards and all kinds of stuff. Maybe that was unfair to him. But the team’s always going to come first and I think a year ago, Dallin was first.’’
Bachynski is introspective enough to admit that he was too self-centered a year ago.
“I was putting too much pressure on myself and being too selfish and it wasn’t the best thing for the team,’’ he says. “It was something I had to work on and get in a better mindset. This year I’m a lot more selfless.’’
With the help of his coaches and teammates, Bachynski’s new team-oriented approach this year is working out for everyone.
“Now the only thing I care about is our success as a team,’’ he says. ‘'Even if I’m not playing a minute of the game, as long as I’m helping in practice or in games, as long as I’m helping us get better and we keep getting wins, that’s great.’’
Senior Renan Lenz has started every game at center and Jeremy Olsen, who came on strong at the end of last season, has been the primary backup at center. But Krystkowiak says the best players will play and Bachynski’s minutes have continued to increase when he’s been healthy. A high ankle sprain limited him early on and a swollen knee kept him out against Fresno State.
“The competition is really good and coach K doesn’t play favorites,’’ Bachynski says. “Whoever’s playing well will get a chance.’’
Even though Bachynski isn’t getting double-doubles, Krystkowiak is thrilled to have a player with his talents that he can bring off the bench and add instant points, rebounds and blocks to the Ute cause.
“He’s come a long way and is bringing some energy,’’ says Krystkowiak, “He met with some challenges and he probably didn’t respond as well as he should have in a team setting. But he’s back at it and is an integral part of the team and hopefully he can be successful and it will be a good story.’’