Bigger role with Ukrainian team helps KU's Mykhailiuk regain confidence

Kansas sophomore guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk photographed at media day on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas sophomore guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk photographed at media day on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Third-year Kansas Jayhawk Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, who still is just 19 years old, returned to Lawrence recently from more than two months overseas, training in his native Ukraine and playing at the Under-20 European Championships in Finland.

It marked the second consecutive summer that the foreign-born Jayhawk spent a substantial part of the summer away from his KU teammates, with the Jayhawks being in South Korea a year ago and Mykhailiuk in Europe this summer.

Not to worry, Svi said Wednesday during a session with local media members at Allen Fieldhouse. He said the time away did not hurt his bond with his Kansas teammates.

“Not really, because we’ve been texting each other and we’ve been FaceTiming,” he said. “They’ve been watching me and I’ve been watching them. It’s not that hard once you get used to it.”

Getting used to it is something the 6-foot-8 junior guard has learned a thing or two about during his first two years in Lawrence. After playing in 26 games and averaging 11.2 minutes per game as a 16- and 17-year-old freshman, Mykhailiuk barely moved the needle during Year 2. His minutes-per-game average only went up to 12.8 and although the rest of his numbers increased as well, none of them produced the kind of chatter that would include the words "breakout season."

That, Mykhailiuk said, is what he hopes the 2016-17 season will be for him, and a big reason he believes it can happen comes from what he gained this summer, when he led the Ukrainian team in scoring at the Euro Championships.

“It was good for me that I got my confidence back,” he said. “And I really started playing better and I really started taking more advantages and creating more shots and just being aggressive.”

Asked to elaborate about where his confidence went and why he lost it, Mykhailiuk pointed to limited playing time and his own inconsistent nature.

“These last two years I didn’t play very much and, you know, when players don’t play, their confidence gets low,” he said. “This summer, I played a lot and I played good and that’s what got my confidence back.”

Life, both in the States and abroad, is different for Mykhailiuk these days than it was when he first arrived on the KU campus before the 2014-15 season. He’s more comfortable as a college student in the heart of the Midwest and he also feels like his time at Kansas has helped him make a name for himself back home, where tensions between Ukraine and Russia have made for some scary times for his home country.

Svi and his family in Cherkasy, Ukraine, have been fortunate in that regard, avoiding the volatile political realities that exist elsewhere in the country.

“Yeah, it is (scary),” Svi said. “But in my home city it’s not really bad, people just living their lives. It’s pretty quiet. ... Everybody knows me more than they used to know me before I got here. I didn’t really spend time going out because we would have a lot of practices, two times a day, so I didn’t do much.”

That was off the court. On the court, Mykhailiuk adjusted to being the main man. He had plays run for him, created both for himself and his teammates and even saw his shooting numbers suffer because of both more attention by opposing defenses and more risks on his part.

“I needed to score,” he said. “That was my main option.”

Even without the gaudy statistics thus far at Kansas, Mykhailiuk has remained one of the top pro prospects on KU’s roster. He has been a mainstay on NBA mock draft sites during the past couple of seasons and enters his junior year as the No. 27 pick in the first round on’s most recent 2017 NBA mock draft.

Mykhailiuk wants more, though. For starters, he wants to help the Jayhawks win as many games as possible. And he would not mind being a little bit bigger part of the reason they do.

“A lot of guys left (after last year),” said Svi when asked why he returned to Kansas instead of testing the NBA waters. “And I think the team’s gonna be really good this year and I’m gonna help my team win. It’s been like family to me, like home, and I just wanted to spend one more year here.”

Mykhailiuk on Wednesday echoed what KU coach Bill Self said last weekend about him being in better shape at this point than he was a year ago. At 203 pounds, down four from his playing weight a season ago, the newly confident and more mature Mykhailiuk is eager for a bigger role during the upcoming season.

“I feel better, faster and more explosive,” he said. “That’s why I’m playing better. ... We’ll see (how things play out) because it’s new people and we have a really good roster. We’ll see what’s gonna happen.”