Jordan Bachynski’s progression a key factor in Arizona State’s success

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TEMPE, Ariz. — In his first two seasons at Arizona State, senior center Jordan Bachynski had a hard time staying on the floor. While he certainly wasn’t foul-prone by any means, committing less than two fouls per game, Bachynski’s physical strength and fitness resulted in his minutes not being at a level many players would prefer. But over the last season-plus Bachynski’s become a difference maker for the Sun Devils, and that was especially evident in Arizona State’s 79-77 win over No. 25 Marquette on Monday night.

Bachynski posted his sixth-double-double in as many games this season, finishing with 14 points and 11 rebounds, and his seventh block of the night was the game-clinching play. With Derrick Wilson on his way to the basket during the game’s final sequence, the 7-foot-2 Bachynski slid over from his defender and blocked Wilson’s shot attempt. And after time expired, Bachynski’s teammates mobbed him on that end of the floor.

Sophomore point guard Jahii Carson (23 points, five assists against Marquette) may receive the majority of the headlines and rightfully so, but to overlook Bachynski’s contributions would be a major mistake. Monday night Bachynski played a career-high 39 minutes against Marquette, and that’s something that would not have been possible earlier in his career.

“I’ve been saying it all year, and at some point maybe the national media will pick up on it as well,” Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek said after the game. “If there’s a more improved player over these last four years, I don’t know who it is but I know Jordan has to be in that conversation.

“Just take it from a conditioning standpoint,” continued Sendek. “At no point previously in his career could he have ever played in a game this physical and combative for 39 minutes; he would need to come out every few minutes. But he has so improved himself physically through the great help of our world-class sports performance coach Rich Wenner, that he’s able to play at a high level for much longer periods of time. I thought Jordan was just terrific today and the numbers he’s posting, they’re hard to beat.”

One key stretch in which Bachynski figured prominently was over the final 6:55 of the first half, when Carson was forced to sit with two fouls. Leading by 11 (33-22), Arizona State lost just one point off the lead due to the contributions of Bachynski, Penn State transfer Jermaine Marshall (21 points) and senior transfer Shaquielle McKissic.

After Marquette cut the deficit to six (35-29), Bachynski would score six straight points for the Sun Devils to help them re-establish the cushion they enjoyed prior to Carson’s departure. While that stretch may not be the one that sticks out to many, it was one reason why Arizona State was in position to win the game on the defensive end in the final seconds. And having a greater impact on the floor is something Bachynski’s been working towards for the last four years.

“It’s not one thing,” Bachynski said when asked of what the difference has been for him. “Persistence, consistency and just working every day and being patient because when I arrived here I barely saw the floor as a freshman. That’s discouraging for a lot of guys. But I just kept working hard with my coaches and working hard with the strength coaches to put the right weight on.

“It’s not one thing, it’s just continuing to fight and working hard every day. And now it’s paying off.”

Grand Canyon lands Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson

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Grand Canyon landed an important piece for its NCAA tournament push on Saturday night as Oregon graduate transfer guard Casey Benson pledged to the Antelopes.

The 6-foot-3 Benson will be eligible right away as spent the past three seasons with the Ducks as a key reserve guard, helping Oregon to multiple deep NCAA tournament runs. Benson picked Grand Canyon over Wisconsin for his final season of college basketball as Benson’s brother, T.J., is an assistant coach with the Antelopes.

Benson shot 40 percent from three-point range last season while also being a steady ball handler over the course of his career at Oregon as he has only 81 career turnovers in over 2,600 career minutes with the Ducks. While Benson wasn’t asked to score a lot for a loaded Oregon team that featured multiple bucket-getters, he could be asked to do more at Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon is eligible for the NCAA tournament for the first time next season as the addition of Benson gives them an experienced guard who should be more of a factor in the WAC. The Antelopes are coming off of a 22-9 season in which they finished 11-3 in conference play.

With great facilities and a quickly-growing fan base, head coach Dan Majerle has the potential makings of a perennial mid-major conference contender if he continues to recruit well to Grand Canyon.

Colorado adds commitment from Class of 2017 point guard McKinley Wright

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Colorado landed one of the best available point guards for next season on Friday as Class of 2017 floor general McKinley Wright committed during an official visit.

A former Dayton commit who opted out of his recruitment after former head coach Archie Miller took the Indiana job, Wright was one of the best available point guards left as he played last weekend on the adidas Gauntlet in front of college coaches with D1 Minnesota.

The 6-foot-0 Wright gives the Buffaloes another ball handler and distributor as he was Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball during this past season. As a senior, Wright averaged 22.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and 7.8 assists per game.

It’s always hard to say if spring recruits who elevate a level in recruiting after decommitting are making the correct decision, but Wright looked the part of a high-major lead guard last weekend, and Colorado wasn’t the only high-major program that was pushing hard to add Wright at this late stage.

Oral Roberts to hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills

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Oral Roberts has found its new head coach as they will hire Baylor assistant coach Paul Mills, as first reported by NBCSports.com’s Rob Dauster.

Mills had been on staff with the Bears since 2003 as he’s been a big factor in why head coach Scott Drew has been able to turn around that program. A graduate of Texas A&M, Mills has been a full-time assistant at Baylor since the 2009 season.

“I am honored to accept this role of representing this historic institution, its students and its mission,” Mills said in a release. “Making this commitment today is a highlight of my career and I look forward with excitement to the basketball season directly ahead. Go Golden Eagles.”

Mills will replace former head coach Scott Sutton, who was relieved of his duties this offseason after 18 years at the helm.

 

Iowa commit Connor McCaffery to redshirt in basketball to pursue baseball

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Iowa commit Connor McCaffery is in a unique spot when he starts his freshman year in Iowa City next year.

Not only is the 6-foot-4 guard the son of basketball head coach Fran McCaffery, while being a four-star national basketball prospect, but Connor also has a bright future in baseball.

There was a lot of speculation as to what Connor might do for his future in athletics and he gave more clarification on what he might be looking to do on Friday.

McCaffery has decided to redshirt in basketball next season to focus on the beginnings of his baseball career at Iowa. A walk-on for both sports, the move enables Connor McCaffery to potentially play three years of basketball with his younger brother, Patrick, who is also a heralded basketball recruit for Iowa. This move also gives Connor the best chance to pursue both sports while he’ll also help out a young Iowa basketball team with its tough scholarship scenario.

Butler, Chris Holtmann agree to a contract extension

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Butler has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Chris Holtmann, the school announced on Friday, that will keep him under contract through 2025.

“Butler truly is a special place, and my family and I are thankful to be part of a great academic institution and an athletics department that is a source of pride for those who embrace Butler and The Butler Way,” said Holtmann. “Our student-athletes, our staff, and so many throughout our campus are remarkable at what they do, and I’m excited to continue to work alongside them.”

Holtmann was named Big East Coach of the Year after leading the Bulldogs to a 25-9 record and a spot in the Sweet 16. In three years with the program, Holtmann has a record of 70-31.

“Chris is a tremendous ambassador for Butler and the Butler Way, and his leadership has resulted in success both on and off the court for the talented young men in our program,” said Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier. “This commitment – both by our university and by Chris – allows the momentum within our program to continue.”

Holtmann was in the mix for a couple of jobs this spring, including N.C. State and Missouri.