What Svi Mykhailiuk learned from the NBA Draft process for his senior season
Long before Svi Mykhailiuk swished the game-winning shot against Nebraska, he had to beat the clock on another season-altering decision.
Back in May, Mykhailiuk announced to the world that he was returning to school for his senior season just a few hours ahead of the NBA Draft deadline.
The 6-foot-8, 205-pound Mykhailiuk only played one day at the NBA Draft combine because of an ankle injury, but he spent the following weeks weighing his options on whether to try to reach his dream of playing in the NBA or finishing his collegiate career at Kansas.
He did his best to gather as much information as he could from NBA teams during his interviews and workouts after the combine. On the day of his decision to return to KU, he went through a workout beforehand for the New York Knicks.
After choosing to return for his senior season, Mykhailiuk has looked like a different player. Through the first 11 games of the season, he ranks third on the team with 16.5 points per game, shooting 48.1 percent from the 3-point line. He’s nearly doubled his scoring average from last year.
The biggest lesson he learned from the combine and workouts, when he received feedback from teams, was that he needed to play more aggressive.
“You just try to get better every day in every aspect of your game whatever you’re working on,” Mykhailiuk said before the season. “It’s just self improvement.”
Beyond scoring, Mykhailiuk looks like a much better defender on the perimeter. No longer can opposing teams target him for drives. He has 13 steals and three blocks on defense, adding 3.6 rebounds per game.
Even including a poor second half in a loss to Arizona State, he has a 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“The things that the NBA needs to see from him are the things that we want him to do,” KU coach Bill Self said at the Big 12 media day in October. “It’s not anything different — ‘Be more aggressive. Play to your athletic ability. Be able to drive the score. Don’t just be a stationary shooter.’ These are things that we work on every day with him.”
Mykhailiuk wasn’t walking into the pre-draft process blind. He had some familiarity with the combine, watching it on TV when Cheick Diallo was invited in 2016.
But he had to cut his own experience short. He injured his ankle when he shot a floater in the lane and had an awkward landing — “I wanted to play but I couldn’t."
When NBA teams provide feedback, it usually resonates with players. Self compared it to a parent telling their child something they need to do, but “as soon as somebody else says, ‘Hey, you should be doing this,’ they are like going, ‘Yeah, well great idea.’”
Along with the opportunity to showcase his talent for NBA teams, Mykhailiuk said he really enjoyed the interviewing process.
“You get to know a lot of people,” Mykhailiuk said. “Sometimes you see NBA legends like Magic Johnson. It was great.”
Waiting to make his decision until the 11th-hour, Mykhailiuk wanted to be assured that he would be drafted. He’s only 20 years old, which gives him an advantage over other seniors who are a few years older.
“If somebody tells you they are going to pick you in the first round, why wouldn’t you go?” Mykhailiuk said.
Once Mykhailiuk decided he was going to return to college — Devonte’ Graham was one of the first people he told — he said he hasn’t looked back. Growing up in Ukraine, Mykhailiuk watched the NBA and Euroleague on his computer. He said reaching the NBA has been a goal since he was 16.
Back in Lawrence, he’s off to the best season of his career.
“For me,” Mykhailiuk said, "I came back and I know what I can expect for next year.”