Friday, May 30, 2014


Column: Newest recruit shows courage


Even for someone 16, an age at which fear tends to take a back seat to the need to experience the new and thrilling, Kansas University basketball recruit Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk showed courage on many levels in deciding to become one of the youngest college basketball players in history.

For one thing, Lawrence is almost 10,000 kilometers (almost 6,000 miles) from his hometown of Cherkasy, Ukraine. For another, he has chosen to compete for minutes with older athletes, some of whom were among the most recruited players in America. And he has chosen to play for a coach not known for coddling superstars.

Knowing all that, Mykhailiuk decided that playing for Kansas was a better move than staying home and playing for the local professional team.

He showed guts and a strong belief in himself by signing with Kansas, all encouraging signs.

Mykhailiuk didn’t commit before speaking to someone with inside knowledge on what cultural changes he will confront.

KU throws coach Andy Kokhanovsky, also Ukrainian, said KU assistant basketball coach Kurtis Townsend put Kokhanovsky on the phone with Mykhailiuk when the recruit visited campus and Kokhanovsky was out of town with the KU track and field team.

Mykhailiuk was educated at a school that specializes in languages. He comes from a part of Ukraine where Urkanian is the first language. In Kokhanovsky’s hometown, Russian is the native tongue.

“We spoke in Russian,” Kokhanovsky said. “He speaks Russian without accent.”

Mykhailiuk speaks English fluently with an accent, so he already is ahead of some of the athletes Kokhanovsky has coached. He will encounter other cultural shifts.

“Food, relationships with people are a little bit different, boyfriend-girlfriend, all that stuff. It’s an adjustment,” Kokhanovsky said.

The exposure to American food with so many preservatives doesn’t always go well initially for Eastern Europeans, the throws coach said.

“We try to eat low-fat here, but add all the preservatives,” Kokhanovsky said. “In the big scheme, what’s more important, natural food or all that added stuff, preservatives? When you come here and you’re not used to it, some eat new food, and they gain weight. That’s what they have to worry about, not to eat so much junk.”

Interestingly, Kokhanovsky pointed to another use of the word weight that could shape up as a major adjustment for the athletic, 6-foot-6 sharp-shooter.

“In Europe, he’s not allowed to do the weights because of the (belief that it can hurt his) shot,” Kokhanovsky said. “That’s one of the different things, culturally. Some of them don’t do weights at all. They believe when you’re shooting, personal touch is important. It doesn’t matter how big you are. Just two different approaches.”

Kokhanovsky said that during his conversation with Mykhailiuk, he told him, “You have to go to college here. You have to do the schoolwork. You’re going to have help, academic support, but you’re going to have to ask for help.”

Mykhailiuk was the star of the Ukrainian youth national team, averaging 25.2 points per game.

“In his mind he is the best,” Kokhanovsky said. “For him, it’s going to be hard to adjust to: Go to school, do your homework, don’t make any money. Over there, because he’s a superstar, he wouldn’t have to go to school. Nobody is going to do for him stuff like you would over there. Over there, he’s a superstar. Here, he’s with a bunch of superstars. He chose to do this.”

He chose the more difficult path, a sure sign of toughness.


Adam McEwen 6 years, 6 months ago

Sounds a lot like a prima donna in the making to me, a la Andrew Wiggins. I'm tired of this. As a die hard blue blood fan, I'm just ashamed of the teams we're putting out there, so weak. No heart. RCJH doesn't mean anything anymore.

Kit Duncan 6 years, 6 months ago

The article just points out the cultural differences the kid is going to face. That said, EVERY new kid that comes to KU is a star in his own backyard and has to learn to adjust to Bill Self's style of basketball. Nothing new there.

John Myers 6 years, 6 months ago

How on earth did you get that from this article?

Glen Miller 6 years, 6 months ago

Did you even read this story? I am not sure how you got that he was a prima donna..... he would have been a prima donna if he had stayed there maybe. He's already been told he is going to have to study, fight for minutes and improve. Yet, he still decided to come to KU. That's not a prima donna at all.

Mark Lindrud 6 years, 6 months ago

10 straight conference titles is nothing to be ashamed of.

Brianna Zaleski 6 years, 6 months ago

Andrew Wiggins was a prima donna? Maybe u need to get out a dictionary and look that word up. I think the adjective you're looking for when describing AW is humble. Dick

Robert Brock 6 years, 6 months ago

How can he be a KU fan when he claims that he is "ashamed of the teams we are putting out there..."

Greg Ledom 6 years, 6 months ago

Kit's a K-State State purple pu$$y. Dude looks like a lady.......

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 6 months ago

skill-wise he's ahead of the game for most every 16 year old out there. But it sounds like from a strength standpoint he may have a couple years of catching up to do.

However, if you look at the difference in his body from his photos with last years Ukrainian U16 team and his photos from April at the Nike Hoops Summit it does look like he's been working out some this year. I suspect that his time with the Cherkasy Monkeys professional team is to thank for that (I picture a very unregimented and voluntary workout routine in a HS weight room). In August however I suspect that he'll have his eyes opened when he really gets in the gym with Andrea Hudy. It will be very tough for him next year. I expect him to hate the workouts, especially since he likely won't see much strength improvement till next offseason. However, with boot camp coming 3 week earlier than it used to it will probably benefit him more than anyone else to actually get on the hardwood, where he's comfortable, for some organized team drills.

Tony Bandle 6 years, 6 months ago

Wait till he gets a load of "Boot Camp"!!

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 6 months ago

I'd bet that he'll be fine at boot camp. Just because he may have never lifted weights in his life doesn't mean that he won't be able to run sprints and drills two times a day for a week. He may be the youngest player ever at boot camp, but he's playing for the Ukraine National Team this summer, so he should report to campus in shape in August.

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 6 months ago

if anything, he'll be more prepared for boot camp than the other incoming freshman, because he does have the experience of training with a pro-organization.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 6 months ago

Coming from the Ukraine culture and being a big fish in a very small pond, basketball wise will be a mega huge adjustment. When this kid gets to Kansas, he's going to feel like people (Self, Huddy, teachers...) are beating him with a 2x4. He will receive help and find friends but anything he gets on the court will have to be earned.

I don't see him making much of a contribution to the team in the '14-'15 season. However, given that Self see a lot of potential and he works hard, he may shine his second season. I'm not holding my breath he makes it to a second season at Kansas.

Robin Smith 6 years, 6 months ago

He has stated his intention to play two seasons.

Greg Lux 6 years, 6 months ago

I am more excited for Svi to join the Jayhawks then I was for Wiggins. Here is a young man with a super work ethic who is giving up everything comfortable to come to a land 6000+ miles away and "learn" for one of the best coaches america has to offer. He will surely be extremely motivated and will come in with a lot lower expectations then did Wiggins. Plus he is probably be here at least 2 years and that alone excites me a great deal. I feel Svi will make an impact during his time at KU and I for one can't wait to enjoy this young mans talent and energy. Welcome to Rock Chalk Nation Svi you will love it. Guaranteed.

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 6 months ago

"I'm not holding my breath he makes it to a second season at Kansas."

I disagree with this sentiment. This kid is going to be a star at Kansas before he leaves.

I think that he'll produce this season and blossom as a sophomore. I predict that he's 5th on the team in scoring this season at somewhere around 8 ppg. Behind Ellis, Selden, Oubre, and Alexander.

Tony Bandle 6 years, 6 months ago

We have had home-grown, McDonald All-Americans come to KU as freshmen and struggle. Come on, everyone...did Andrew Wiggins ever consistently look like the greatest college freshmen recruit in a decade...and he even lead the team in scoring, and still showed flashes of areas needing improvement.

To expect Svi to come in and, frankly, even make a moderately significant impact immediately, is pure folly. Maybe by March, 2015 he will have adapted, gotten stronger, been hardened by a season's worth of practices and scrimmages and play some significant minutes.

I frankly don't see Svi cracking the rotation on a regular basis till his second year, however, if he proves me wrong, I'll do backflips of joy:). [unless it means there is a tailing off of performance by the players ahead of him. :( ]

Jay Beakum 6 years, 6 months ago

Self says he’s an immediate impact guy. I’m going with that.

Remember he’s more than his highlights. Bill has seen the same thing the scouts have seen. Entire games. And some of the things the scouts say are... "He’s a good on-ball defender with exceptional lateral quickness. He plays well without the ball, always working to get open. He sees the court well and makes great passes. He is always willing to make the EXTRA pass." These are things that get you minutes in Self’s system.

Don’t forget the versatility either. Self finds a way to get the best players on the court and if he can’t beat out Oubre at the 3, he’ll have a chance to find minutes at both the 2 and the 1.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 6 months ago

What Self says is what gets everyone so hyped. He's one of the best at recognizing and getting the best out of talent. However, Self has stated on several occasions ,,,, "this is not an equal employment opportunity," He's going to need to work like he probably never dreamed possible.

My opinion is derived from general experiences with 16 year old kids that think they are hot stuff because they perform well with a bunch of no-little talent kids in a small ponds. Plus this kid, who has never lifted, will never make it with elite D1, let alone the NBA, unless he makes a commitment to radically change those ways. Additionally, I've visited the Ukraine recently and have seen first hand the conditions there, which are avoid of opportunities and ambition from the general populace. Buildings, even the historic ones in Odessa, are crumbling, the roads are a mess. The only place I saw well maintained was the Lavidia Palace, site of the Yalta war time conference. There is obviously high unemployment (numbers are not released) with expectations others, i.e. the state, will provide for them.

On the surface, a kid with all the skills you stated, with evaluations coming from highly credible people, gets us all thinking he could be a Magic Johnson PG. Will he put in the work off court? Will he be a good team mate? Can he lead?

Jonathan Allison 6 years, 6 months ago

if anything I would think that crumbling infrastructure, high unemployment, and welfare in Ukraine would bolster Svi's motivation to succeed on and off the court at KU. I'm not otherwise sure what they have to do with him being a good teammate and responsible student athlete. His father is a university professor and his mother a high school teacher, so I doubt unemployment and welfare are in his future.

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 6 months ago

I certainly hope so. Their are a lot of people in the Ukraine that expect things to be given to them and don't fully understand what it takes to compete to be successful. I'm not so sure having parents in education will help much.

Dale Kroening 6 years, 6 months ago

Yeah , that's why THERE aren't any good international players in the NBA, because of THEIR work ethic or lack of lifting ........ You make no sense and most of what your saying is totally irrelevant. I'd be willing to bet of all the international NBA'ers (and there are quite a few), a good percentage likely did not lift at a young age. No offense , but you come off as being arrogant and a know it all , but reading most of your replies , and there are many , you don't know as much as you think. Have a nice day ... Rock Chalk !!! :)

Tony Bandle 6 years, 6 months ago

He'll play the 1 only if Frank, Conner, Wayne and DeVonte all miss the bus!!

However, I do agree with you in that he is an intriguing option at the 2.

Dale Kroening 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree with you Jay. Look back at what Self said about Embiid ..... Immediate impact guy. And he had only been playing basketball about 2 years and although he played HS ball he wasn't from the US. He will most likely be the first pick in the draft. I trust HCBS more than the naysayers , but I guess we'll have to wait and see. ;)

Chris Warman 6 years, 6 months ago

Interesting take on the food. Makes me feel unhealthy. Puts a new spin on McDonald's All-American

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 6 months ago

It's good kids strive to be McDonald's All-Americans but to get there means, amongst other things, don't eat their food.

Tony Bandle 6 years, 6 months ago

For those keeping score:

Articles whereby Svi is listed at 6'-8" = 2.

Articles whereby Svi is listed at 6'-6" = 4.

Las Vegas Oddsmakers over/under 6'- 5".

KUMetrics = 6'-9". :).

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 6 months ago

He's only 16...better put a time stamp on this. He probably has a few more years to grow. Look what happened to the tall kid that picked UT over Kansas.

You should do an over/under for various number of times guys toss it during boot camp.

John Fitzgerald 6 years, 6 months ago

I like you Keegan, but man your articles are hard to read and follow. Reading your articles is like trying to piece a puzzle together at the same time your reading it. Maybe consider getting a new editor? I do like the idea behind your articles though. And I think the kid is going to bring toughness, which is what we lacked the past few years. Glad we picked him up!

Suzi Marshall 6 years, 6 months ago

John...really..."past few years"? I'll certainly give you last year as a soft team but the previous several years the team has been tough as they get.

Bill Self teams are NOT soft. We all don't expect Self to put another soft team on the floor for a second year in a row. I feel for the guys this boot camp.

John Fitzgerald 6 years, 6 months ago

We let Michigan come back and beat us in 2013 when we basically had the game in hand and this year in 2014 we couldn't out tough Stanford. Say what you want Suzie but toughness doesn't lose those games. I will agree with you in saying Self usually has some pretty tough teams though. And a little free advice, when you reply to a persons comment, try to be a little more intelligent in your approach. You can come off as a little nit picky and arrogant.

Dale Kroening 6 years, 6 months ago

I agree the 2014 team was soft , but the 2013 team being soft I disagree. It wasn't Self's toughest team by far , but their problem IMO was the lack of a true pg or something close to it ( see Tyshawn Taylor ). Yes EJ was a pg in high school and played some 1 at KU , but he also played the 2 and some at the 3 in Self's offense (Naa was also a pg in HS but played the 1 and the 2 ...= combo guard). HCBS seems to recruit mostly combo guards that are interchangeable. EJ ( and Naa for that matter) was a combo guard at KU. I think Frank is a true pg , Conner a combo guard. I also think Graham is a true pg , but only time will tell. When Self was at Illinois he played a 3 guard offense (Williams , Brown , Head ) with 2 bigs. As far as the comment about Suzi , I agree 110%.

John Fitzgerald 6 years, 6 months ago

Not sure I would classify any of Selfs teams as soft, just that this past year and the year before we could have used a little more toughness. Not sure where Suzie got me calling them 'soft' from. But I do agree lack of a true pg was probably the biggest issue with 2013 and 2014.

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