They met in study hall.
At the time, sophomore forward Jordan Bachynski was just a freshman acclimating to life both in the U.S. and as a member of the ASU men’s basketball team.
His future, Malia, was entering her junior season on the ASU volleyball team.
Jordan was at the bookstore with his coaches on the first day of school. She was attracted by his joyful attitude, but too shy to approach him.
On the second day of school, Malia saw him with freshman Chanse Creekmur as she was walking to class, but didn’t say a word to him again.
She entered the second floor of the Ed and Nadine Carson Student-Athlete Center on the third day of school to help tutor someone in geography, and there he was.
This time in study hall, Jordan was discussing how he wanted to test out of 17 Spanish credits with his academic coach. He explained how he learned Spanish on a two-year mission trip.
“It all kind of sounded to me like this kid had to be Mormon,” Malia laughed.
Malia asked if he was, which he replied yes. The two talked, and Jordan asked for her number so he could get a tour of the church, though Malia felt he knew where the church was.
To this date, Jordan has yet to ask for the tour, but rather he called that night to ask her to dinner.
Malia picked him up from his place, and they got to know each other. At the end of the date, she dropped Jordan back off. He was supposed to hang out with his teammates that night, but he didn’t.
Once she reached the end of the street, Malia picked up her phone.
“I guess I was so captivating that literally two minutes after she dropped me off, she called me and said, ‘Do you want to go to the movies?’” Jordan said.
He went over to her house to watch a movie, and they’ve haven’t been apart since.
“She’s everything that I’ve ever wanted,” Jordan said.
The couple will celebrate nine months of marriage on Feb. 13. Jordan describes his wife as “as close to perfection as you can get,” believing he wouldn’t be half the player he is on the court without her.
Malia wrapped up her four-year volleyball career at ASU this past season. Now, as the wife of a student athlete, she can relate to the daily demands Jordan deals with. The balance between life, school and sports can be a challenge, but Jordan said she’s made his life easier.
“Whether it’s making sure I’m on time for games or making it so I can get to everything I need to, she does everything for me,” Jordan said. “She’s the boss. Whatever she says, goes.”
The “boss” has talked to plenty of people about being the wife of an athlete. She feels others may not understand what it takes to succeed, but her background and upbringing from an athletic family gives her enough experience into the relationship.
At times, the lines can be blurry. Jordan knows Malia is always there when he needs to vent. Malia knows after a tough loss, sometimes Jordan doesn’t want to talk.
But when Malia sees him shifting off balance, her goal is to keep him motivated on his goals.
This includes a friendly wager in the household made just before Jordan’s recent string of impressive performances.
Jordan loves video games. Malia bought the last two Call of Duty games for him, but she doesn’t like it when he plays, so she made a deal with him. For every minute of film he watches outside of team film sessions, he gets two minutes to play video games.
She also threw in a similar deal with chores. If Jordan shoots on his own outside of practice, he gets a free pass on chores that day.
“Any bit of motivation that I can give him or support, I want to put it out there,” Malia said. “He’s been taking advantage of it. He’s been coming in and shooting and watching film. He shoots every day on his own.”
Jordan invites his wife at least once a week to help him when he’s shooting on his own. He learned the concept of “doubling up” his time from his father, who would get something done but also incorporate family time.
She’ll come and rebound for him, which she enjoys. Malia will flirt with him when he’s shooting to distract him a bit, but she’s there to work.
“It’s nice to me when he calls and invites me into the gym, and I can spend that extra time with him,” Malia said. “In one way, it’s like killing two birds with one stone.”
They enjoy the household deal, but they’re quick to say this wasn’t the only factor contributing to Jordan’s improvement before the Sun Devils played Utah.
As a child, a friend of Jordan’s mother told him to quit playing like a pussycat and play like a wolverine. He also watches plenty of programs on National Geographic and Discovery Channel about the agressive nature of animals.
That’s when his mantra, “Play like an animal,” was born.
“Everything about an animal is just aggressive and tough and goes hard,” Jordan said. “When I play, that’s something I want to emulate. That’s where it came from.”
As much as he said that, something just wasn’t right during games and practices.
Malia read numerous books about the mental aspect of sports. She saw a sports psychologist, and she said it helped her game.
Jordan’s coaches recommended that he see one, but it wasn’t until the boss said he needed to see one that he finally went.
He also met with his mission president on the Utah road trip and talked about his mental game. His mentor noticed Jordan was too nice on the court. He encouraged Jordan to think positive and pinpointed him to figuratively playing like an animal.
After that game, the stats speak for themselves.
His average of 11 points per game over the last five games leads the team. Jordan is shooting 77 percent from the floor. He grabs six rebounds per game in comparison to his 2.5 average during the first 18 games this season.
Most notably, he’s improved significantly at the free throw line. Jordan is shooting 61.8 percent from the charity stripe, besting his 35.3 percent mark over the first 18 games.
“He was overthinking everything, and he was losing trust in his body and his muscle memory,” Malia said.
The couple has an immense amount of respect for coach Herb Sendek and his staff for believing in Jordan. Malia said he’s always had coaches that told Jordan he wasn’t good enough.
Despite the fact he didn’t touch a basketball in nearly two years during his mission, Sendek and his staff have said otherwise since Jordan stepped on campus. Jordan understands if he messes up, he’s going to be held accountable by his coaches.
“Jordan wouldn’t be the player he was if he didn’t have the coaches he has now,” Malia said.
Although his wife believes he should receive the credit for taking action, Jordan unselfishly gives credit to everyone around him for his turnaround.
Whether it is his coaches, his wife, his mission president, his family or God, he doesn’t want to attribute all the success to himself.
The majority of the credit goes to his wife, who’s sitting in the front row at every home game near midcourt. Malia isn’t decked out in maroon and gold, but rather in business casual. She’s an intern at the media relations department for ASU athletics.
In between timeouts, she’s marching back and forth from the press section to press row handing out stats for the broadcasters. During the game, however, she’s focused on No. 13. Due to her job, she must remain professional, but she’ll drop her head if Jordan messes up or give off a smirk if he scores a bucket.
It’s difficult for Jordan not to notice her during the game, but even in her silence, she still finds a way to motivate him.
“If I’m going through a slump, I look back and it’ll be that extra something I need,” Jordan said. “I know she’s cheering on the inside, that’s all that matters to me.”
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