It's not often that two brothers get the opportunity to play collegiate basketball at the highest levels. For brothers Jordan and Dallin Bachynski, the first chance to square off against each other not at home on their family's driveway, but rather on the Pac-12 stage, looms large on January 2, 2013.
Jordan's Arizona State Sun Devils and Dallin's Utah Utes kick off conference play Wednesday night at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe, Arizona, which is a long way from their native Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Sure, brothers squaring off has happened before, but the odds become even less likely considering that the Bachynskis hail from Canada where each brother were highly touted coming out of prep school. As well as playing in a storied basketball conference, such as the Pac-12 also makes the situation extremely special for the Bachynski family, who are all basketball players.
Regardless of how many times its happened before, it won't change the intensity for either Bachynski brother, but it may mean more to Dallin, who took a more circuitous path to get to the Pac-12.
Despite coming out of prep school as one of the top big men in Canada, Bachynski didn't have the same opportunities as Jordan, who went to Arizona State straight out of high school. Instead, Bachynski went to Southern Utah University for one season, where he played in 29 games and averaged 3.6 points and 2.6 rebounds per game and finished with 10 assists and 11 blocks.
Following his single lackluster season, he embarked on an LDS mission to Croatia. Having decided to transfer away from SUU, Bachynski looked at all his options upon his return, and found a home at Utah.
"It was playing at a high level, which was something I always wanted, and I loved the players and coaching staff here. I have to be honest, because I wanted the Pac-12, because I wanted to kind of play in the same conference as my brother," he recalled. "There were other things that made my decision easy, but getting the chance to finally get to go up against Jordan was huge. It was kind of like getting a shot at a dream."
Three years, one mission/life experience and one other collegiate team later, the younger Bachynski will finally get a crack at big brother.
"It took me a little while to get here, so I'm getting pretty excited for the game coming up. I can't help but think about all the time and preparation it took for me to get this opportunity, and I've waited a long time for it," said Dallin. "It's not just another game, or another player I'm going up against. It's my brother. It's my older brother, so for a younger brother, that's all you could ever ask for."
The Bachynski brothers are no different than any other set of brothers anywhere in the world, and the two are constantly looking at ways to compare and compete with one another, down to the smallest of things.
"His wife will tell you, when we're together he eats like 2,000 calories more a day than he normally does, just because he has to eat more than me," Dallin joked of older brother Jordan. "Then of course I have to eat more than him, and it just goes back and forth. We compete at everything we do, and I mean everything. It gets a little out of hand some times."
The biggest thing the two brothers compete in, of course, is basketball.
"He called me up the day he got his triple double and kind of rubbed it in on me. He asked me when I was going to get mine. We hadn't played yet, and I was getting ready for my game [against BYU] and I was like, OK, I have to play well here tonight," recalled Bachynski. "I got in foul trouble, so I wasn't able to do what I wanted to, and it made me kind of mad. But I don't know if I'll ever get one of those, I'm not quite the shot blocker that he is."
Listed at 7-feet, Dallin might reach that height in shoes, while brother Jordan has a good two inches at him at 7-foot-2, though both are listed officially at 248 pounds. Jordan also has two years on Dallin, in which time he has served an LDS mission to Miami, and married another athlete in Sun Devil volleyball player, Malia.
As the more senior of the two, Jordan has also had two years of invaluable experience playing at the Pac-12 level, and is starting to emerge as one of the best big men in the conference.
Jordan leads the conference in blocked shots with 59 on the season,averaging 4.5 per game. Bachynski has 26 more blocks than the second-leading Pac-12 shot-blocker, and the next highest average in the conference is 2.6 per game. The elder Bachynski is also in the conference's top 15 rebounders, and is second in field goal percentage behind Dallin' teammate Jason Washburn with .636.
In true little brother fashion, Dallin is taking some of the credit for his brother's emergence this season.
"My brother is a dedicated guy, when he really wants to be. So my being in this conference is one of the things that helped him get a little more dedicated," claimed Dallin. "He's definitely been working harder, because he's thinking, 'I can't let my little brother beat up on me.'"
While Dallin acknowledged his brother's strengths, he delineated the differences between their respective games.
"He's a much better shot blocker, but I don't know if he's even taken a three [pointer] yet. I've taken a few, and knocked down a few, I'm more of a shooter than he is," Dallin differentiated. "I'm more of a face-up post, and he's more of a back-up post. We both run the floor well, but he's more of a defensive specialist, where I'm more of an offensive specialist."
The two brothers have posted fairly similar numbers so far this season, blocks aside. Dallin is averaging 7.8 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, lagging slightly behind big brother, who is averaging 9.8 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a 13 game starter.
At the time of this interview, the Bachynski brothers were tied for 10th in the conference with 73 rebounds each, and Dallin's scoring average had eclipsed that of his brothers, before dropping after Dallin's recent struggle. Well aware of where they each stand, thanks to mom and dad Bachynski, the two even found a way to come out ahead of the other, in spite of the tie.
"Yeah, we were both tied at one point for 5th in the conference with 8.1 rebounds per game, and then it was 10th. But I thought I broke the tie, because I had one more offensive rebound than he did, and offensive boards are really important," Dallin explained the logic. "He thought that he broke the tie because of his blocks, and he was saying that more important. Then I pointed out my three-point shooting, so it just goes on and on. He thinks he won, and I think I won."
Currently, each Bachynski has dropped in the rankings, with Jordan landing tied for 13th with 92 boards, and Dallin tied for 18th and 75 boards in one less game than big brother.
With plenty of motivation already, Dallin says that his brother's mere presence, and success pushes him every bit as much as he pushes Jordan.
"It's always in the back of my head. Every time I step on the court, I'm thinking, I've got to come out here and push, and do my best to get better, because I've got to beat him," said Dallin of his older brother. "It's competitive, but it's a healthy competitive, but I use it as just that one little extra thing to give me an edge. Something extra if I ever think about slowing down."
The two brothers thought they'd have a holiday preview of the Ute/Sun Devil match-up back home at the family's church gym, but Jordan was unable to get the appropriate paperwork together in time to make the trip.
"I'm going home for Christmas, and he was supposed to, but there was a problem with his citizenship stuff. So the paperwork would have made it so he couldn't get back in the country," he explained. "It's a good thing, because we for sure would have gone to the gym and worked each other over pretty good. It might have even turned chippy, or into one of those kind of brotherly fights or a lot of smack-talk about the game coming up."
Despite a slow-down in Dallin's game, it sounds as if Jordan may not be as sure about his game as he once was, as according to Dallin, the tone and message of sibling smack-talk has slowly changed over the course of the season.
"Before the season started, he was telling me 'Oh, I feel sorry for you, I'm going to trash you, and it's going to be embarrassing' and things like that. Then it was like, 'I'll probably get like three or four blocks on you'," Dallin mocked. "Now, he's like, 'well you'll probably score on me a little bit, but my team will win'. So that's what he's switched to, instead of him beating me, it's his team beating mine. I think I'm in his head a little bit."
Despite all the good-natured joking, Dallin acknowledged the great opportunities both he and his brother have been able to enjoy, ultimately keeping it all in perspective.
"It's just a really amazing thing that we've both been blessed enough to both get to play at this level, and to do it against each other, I think is a really rare thing. Our whole family recognizes that," the younger Bachynski said.