Tulsa, Okla. — Kansas center Landen Lucas didn’t realize it at the time, but when he and his young teammates experienced early exits from the NCAA Tournament as underclassmen, the disappointment doubled as a valuable lesson about what it takes to win in March.
Now a fifth-year senior, Lucas played for KU teams that lost to Stanford (2014) and Wichita State (2015) at the very stage of The Big Dance that his Jayhawks find themselves in now, the Round of 32.
Much wiser and accomplished at this stage of his college career, when Lucas reflects on those seasons that came up short of a Sweet 16 berth, he realizes, at the time, the Jayhawks fell into the trap of assuming March Madness success. He said ahead of KU’s Sunday meeting with Michigan State this year’s veterans know it’s better to approach every tournament game as the most important one.
“I think it was obviously an important game, but it wasn’t the most important game,” Lucas shared of the approach that bit KU during his freshman and sophomore seasons. “I think last year put so much on us to make sure that we got past this game (second round) that we did whatever it took. We were meeting as a team outside of the coaches telling us to, just to make sure we had scouting report down, and we’ll do that again this year.”
Now that KU’s veterans know what it’s like to get as far as the Elite Eight, which Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk all accomplished a year ago, Lucas said they understand there is no harm in expending all the energy they have to advance.
“We’re treating this like it’s a championship — like it’s our very last game,” Lucas said of No. 1 seed KU’s showdown with No. 9 Michigan State (20-14). “Because then, as we know last year, you get a couple days, you can regroup, reset a little bit and then go into the next weekend. So we’ve got to treat this like it’s our last game and go out there and really not look ahead at all.”
Two years removed from KU’s second-round loss to Wichita State, Mykhailiuk and Mason said they both have forgotten about that game by now. Mykhailiuk, though, sees some similarities that should help Kansas (29-4) know what to expect at BOK Center versus the Spartans.
“But that (Wichita State group) was a pretty tough team, like Michigan State,” the junior from Ukraine said. “They were a low seed but really good, and that’s the main point about them. They can beat anyone.”
The elder Jayhawks know now what they didn’t when they were younger. Those second-round losses, Lucas said, taught them your mental approach during the NCAA Tournament is as important as anything.
“It’s really what helped us out last year,” Lucas said of KU coming one win away from a Final Four in 2016. “It’s what’s gonna help us out again this year, because we learned from that. At the time there was really nothing against those teams, because those teams didn’t have very many people who had done it before. It was a lot of young guys or transfers or different things. We were all learning together, and that’s the benefit that the guys who have been here for that long period of time have, because we did learn from those experiences.”
Tulsa, Okla. — For weeks, Kansas coach Bill Self has referenced his hope that the Jayhawks would play loose, worry-free basketball this March, as they try to land the program in the Final Four for the first time in five seasons.
Once KU built a 20-point lead in the first half Friday night against UC-Davis, the players got to spend the remainder of a 100-62 rout living in the moment and enjoying the stage. This time of year can quickly become a stressful time for players and coaches, so opening the NCAA Tournament with laughs and chemistry-bolstering endorphins seemed ideal.
Senior center Landen Lucas definitely takes his job seriously, and doing so led to a 13-point, 11-rebound double-double for the KU veteran versus the Aggies (23-13). The 6-foot-10 big got to feel like a kid again, too, posting up on the blocks and showing off post moves that led to high-percentage buckets in the paint.
“Yeah, it was fun,” a smiling Lucas said in the locker room. “I don’t get a whole lot of chances to do that, so it was nice to do a couple. And then also it’s good moving forward because it gives me a little confidence to go to that if needed or if I see an opportunity for it.”
No one in a KU uniform enjoyed any play more than often subdued junior Svi Mykhailiuk, who coaxed a near-impossible 3-pointer through the net in the second half. With the shot clock clicking toward zero and his defender all over him, Mykhailiuk took a step-back, fading prayer from behind the arc that looked like it had no chance of dropping. But it did, the KU lead ballooned to 34 with more than 11 minutes to play and Svi cheesed harder than he seemed capable of as his buddy Devonte’ Graham ran toward him, screaming over the wild, highlight-level heave and make.
You would have sworn the Jayhawks (29-4) were just celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on the floor based on the looks on their faces. Mykhailiuk, who scored 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting, said having a good time in the midst of executing should benefit Kansas.
“We were just playing ball,” the junior from Ukraine said, “and just enjoying the game.”
Lucas said Mykhailiuk’s crazy 3 and a late-game drain from senior walk-on Tyler Self highlighted a happy-go-lucky night.
“It’s always fun when Tyler gets in,” Lucas said. “But, you know, it’s fun. You try to have fun with these games, especially once you have a comfortable lead, because we know as soon as it’s over this time, you’ve got to get serious again to move forward to the next one.”
Indeed, a more than formidable Michigan State team awaits the Jayhawks in the Round of 32 on Sunday at the BOK Center.
After contributing six points and five rebounds in the victory, backup forward Carlton Bragg Jr. emphasized the importance of opening the team’s tournament run on a mellow note.
“Coach said in the locker room, just go out there and have fun,” Bragg shared of the pre-game message. “Just play hard. This is fun to play in March. So just go out there and have fun. Just let it go.”
An enjoyable Friday night could make a Sunday battle a little easier on the legs and minds of the Jayhawks, as they try to get back to Kansas City, Mo., for the Sweet 16
Tulsa, Okla. — From the time Big 12 play began the last week of December up until the league’s tournament started in March, the Kansas basketball team existed on a steady diet of two games a week. The Jayhawks expected an even larger plate on the first weekend of the postseason, in Kansas City, Mo., before TCU sent them home early.
By the time KU, the No. 1 seed in the Midwest region, tips off its NCAA Tournament opener against UC-Davis at BOK Arena Friday evening, eight days will have passed since the players last competed full-out on a basketball court.
“I think this is the longest break we’ve had between games since the start of the season — at least that I can remember,” said senior center Landen Lucas, whose assessment was nearly spot on (KU also had eight days off with its holiday break in late December). “And, you know, it is weird. It almost feels like preseason again. You’re getting tired of battling against your teammates and stuff and ready to play somebody else.”
The subject rarely comes up for Kansas in March, one of the program’s busiest times of year, but the prolonged and unexpected layoff in action inspired a locker room discussion with media ahead of the Jayhawks’ tourney opener against UC-Davis (23-12).
“There’s always that debate about rust and rest and which one’s gonna come up, but I feel like it equals out,” Lucas predicted. “The rest is gonna be helpful at times maybe later in the game and the rust is early. If you were gonna say which one would you rather have, I think later would be better. We’ll be fine, and I think that as a team we’re mature enough that we can handle the rust.”
Indeed, the Jayhawks (28-4) have overcome all sorts of in-game challenges over the course of the past four months, often with veterans Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham and Lucas coming through with one play or many in crunch time.
While KU’s time off had plenty to do with Josh Jackson’s suspension, and how much the team missed his defense, rebounding and play-making, it did allow junior wing Svi Mykhailiuk to bust out of a personal slump. The starter from Ukraine could have used another game (or two) to keep building off the momentum of an 18-point outing.
So, Svi, is this break from action a positive or negative for KU?
“I think the bad thing was we lost and we wanted to play more games and win the Big 12 tournament,” Mykhailiuk responded. “But I think the good thing is we got more time to prepare for the NCAA Tournament — working on mistakes, working on the defense and offense and just preparing better.”
Even if certain Jayhawks were battling fatigue right now, Mykhailiuk said they would find ways to ignore it this time of year, because all they care about are the games and finding ways to win.
According to Mason, who averaged 37.2 minutes a game in Big 12 play, KU spent its eight days off wisely.
“Yeah, definitely. Once we got back from last game, we got a little bit of rest,” said Mason, never one to seek out such respite. “And the next day we had practice. We practiced really hard. I think we got better as a team. And just a few days after the game, we practiced really hard and we're really prepared for this tournament.”
In the time since KU lost, UC-Davis, which also played that day, has played three more games, winning them all.
The Jayhawks haven’t exactly been idle, but their March got off to what Lucas said felt like a strange start. That odd feeling, though, might come accompanied with fresh legs that will prove rather handy in the days ahead.
“It could be helpful,” Lucas said of those eight game-free days. “I think we’re using this as motivation, using it as some momentum off of the practices going into this next game.”
For what it’s worth, Kansas lost in the Big 12 semifinals in 2012, then had seven days off before beginning a run to the national title game.
As Bill Self directs Kansas toward what he hopes will be the basketball program’s 13th consecutive Big 12 title, it has become clear this isn’t one of his typical teams, and not just because he doesn’t have as much frontcourt depth as he would like and is forced to play four-guard lineups much of the time.
Those perimeter-oriented combinations Self puts on the floor work so well because every guard and wing isn’t one-dimensional when the ball reaches his hands. The Jayhawks have drivers and shooters outside, and wouldn’t be ranked No. 2 in the country or riding a 15-game winning streak without the power of the 3-pointer.
Down nine at the half on the road Tuesday night at Oklahoma, KU recovered for an 81-70 victory by harnessing one of its biggest offensive strengths. A 3-for-11 first-half display from behind the arc influenced a putrid showing early against the worst team in the Big 12. But the Jayhawks and senior leader Frank Mason III proved, on most nights, opponents just aren’t going to be able to stop them from creating high-percentage 3-pointers and cashing in on the best of those looks.
Mason couldn’t miss from long range during the second-half KU rally, knocking in all four of his 3-point tries. When Mason takes over, his teammates follow. With juniors Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte’ Graham joining the barrage, Kansas shot 9-for-16 from long range in the final 20 minutes.
Mykhailiuk, whose 3 just after intermission helped ignite a 54-point second half, said Mason, per usual, made everything easier for his teammates on offense.
“Oh, yeah, because he is a really good driver,” said Mykhailiuk, who scored all nine of his points on 3’s in the closing half. “I think nobody can guard him. He’s just beating his guy and the other guy gotta help, and that’s what (creates) open (shots).”
During his 28-point outing, the 5-foot-11 Mason only missed one of six 3-point attempts, bringing his percentage on the year to an astounding 54.9%. Mason, following his ninth game of 20-plus points this season, said it was just his night.
“The first shot I missed even felt good, but you know I was just in rhythm on every shot and I think all them 3’s I made were pretty good shot selections,” Mason said after knocking down at least five from deep for the third time in his spectacular senior season. “So I hope that continue to happen movin' forward.”
Before the Jayhawks (15-1 overall, 4-0 Big 12) get too excited about ranking fourth in the nation in 3-point accuracy (42.2%), though, their coach will remind them not all of their looks from downtown have been ideal.
“I thought they came pretty out of rhythm and I thought a lot of them came in transition and in the open court,” Self said on the subject of KU’s nine successful 3-pointers in the second half at OU (6-9, 0-4).
“You know, there was a really big play where Frank makes a terrible play, late clock, and they steal it and the kid (one of the Sooners) tries to throw it from his back, I think, up the court and we steal it back and make a 3,” Self gave as an example. “Plays like that, that could’ve been a five-point swing right there. So we were pretty fortunate on some plays like that.”
Even though Self previously has been a noted skeptic of trusting the 3-pointer, know that he says these types of things as a way to keep his players from settling, instead of working for a better shot. He knows this Kansas team has the shooters to capitalize from long range, but he wants them to do so on open looks off of ball movement or drive-and-kick situations whenever possible.
“But I thought we took pretty good looks,” Self admitted of a decisive second-half run when KU assisted on six of its nine 3’s.
Sixteen games into the season, Mason (39-for-71 from deep) has proven to be KU’s best from distance, but he also has help. Graham is shooting 38% (38 of 100), while both Mykhailiuk (36-for-81) and sophomore sub Lagerald Vick (20-for-45) are connecting on 44% of their 3’s. Among the guards, only freshman Jackson (9-for-35) has struggled, at 26%.
“When (Mason) and Devonte’ and Svi are shootin’ the ball,” Self said, “and Lagerald, too, although Lagerald didn’t (at OU, 1-for-2 on 3’s, 1-for-6 from the floor) — but when those guys are shootin' the ball well from the perimeter it makes it pretty hard to guard.”
KU has shot 40% or better from 3-point range in nine games now, and while an off night or a slump could come at some point, the Jayhawks won’t abandon the weapon they’ll need to get this team where it wants to go.
Said Mykhailiuk: “We’re shooting pretty good. You know, everybody can shoot on our team: Frank, Devonte’, me, Josh, Lagerald. So we’re just driving the ball real aggressive and when the defense sucks in we just throw it to the 3-point line. It’s an open shot.”
Sure, when the name Svi Mykhailiuk comes up, the first thing that comes to mind might be his long-distance shooting — after all, his shortened first name conveniently rhymes with “three.” But the junior wing from Ukraine wants more out of his basketball life at Kansas than hanging out behind the arc waiting to fire.
Saturday afternoon at Allen Fieldhouse, Mykhailiuk’s 2-for-4 shooting from long range in an 89-72 victory over Nebraska enhanced his numbers to 22-for-51 (43.1 percent) through 10 games. Still, the 6-foot-8 backup showed he’s capable of so much more in the midst of tying his season high with 15 points.
For one, Mykhailiuk looked assertive with the ball in his hands, whether that came off a turnover, in transition or as a driver in the half court.
“People just know me for shooting those three-point shots,” he said after Kansas improved to 9-1, “but I don’t think they expect me to drive the ball as much. So now I’m working on driving more.”
On his way to 13 first-half points, Mykhailiuk put in two layups and scored another basket from just outside the paint, near the left baseline while making five of his first eight shots before intermission. Even when it appeared he might be dribbling himself into trouble, the ever-improving 19-year old turned a dead end into a basket. His confidence seemingly improving by the week, Mykhailiuk transformed a one-on-three fast break into a layup by evading his defender with a Euro-step at the free-throw line, followed by a strong finish.
His final stat line included two assists, two steals, no turnovers and one block, as well. What’s more, Mykhailiuk didn’t get credit for another swat. In the second half, he slid over to help defensively from the weak side of the floor and smacked a layup attempt off the backboard before being whistled for goaltending. Replays proved Mykhailiuk thwarted the shot cleanly and legally.
Never one to praise himself or leave a game feeling like he did everything perfectly, though, Mykhailiuk downplayed improved defense as one of his qualities this season.
“I try to help more and we’ve been working in practices, but I’m not good in there now,” he said when asked about the goaltend (read as: block), which he met at the rim. “I think I’m gonna get better.”
To his credit, Mykhailiuk remembers his mistakes in floor positioning on defense as much as his highlight-reel buckets.
“That’s why at times I’m running to a long pass and I’ve got to close out (and not get beat),” Mykhailiuk said. “So I’ve gotta get better taking the right position.”
When those stops (that coach Bill Self agonizes over) come, offensively, KU’s four-guard lineups allow Mykhailiuk more freedom to make plays, especially in the open floor.
“Everybody can bring up the ball,” the junior guard said, “and whoever can get a rebound can bring it down and push ahead.”
All of the Jayhawks’ perimeter players appear to be appreciating their chances to play a less traditional form of offense. Plus, Mykhailiuk, who said the players are improving in those situations, added using some four-player combination of himself, Frank Mason III, Devonté Graham, Josh Jackson and Lagerald Vick should make KU more versatile defensively, too.
“We are faster and we can switch with four guards,” Mykhailiuk explained. “We can trap the bigs. I think we feel pretty comfortable.”
Even so, he was the last Jayhawk who would claim everything is humming along euphorically. Mykhailiuk cost himself a third assist and drew the ire of his coach when on one second-half fast break against the Huskers (5-5), he lobbed a pass off the backboard for Jackson and the electric freshman missed a dunk off the back of the rim.
“Ah, Svi, come on,” Jackson said in the postgame press conference with a smile, when asked about the mishap. “You see, originally the plan was to just throw me the ball. I didn’t know it was goin’ off the backboard.”
Added Mykhailiuk: “I should’ve just thrown it to him. Regular pass.”
The junior won’t soon forget that mistake, nor will he attempt an unnecessarily difficult alley-oop feed under Self’s watch again. Mykhailiuk learns too well from his mistakes as he continues to grow as a player.
“I just try to help my team win and do whatever — if it’s drive the ball, shoot the ball, play defense,” he said, before turning to another self-critique which surely also qualifies as a Self-critique of his game. “I’ve gotta rebound the ball more,” Mykhailiuk added after a two-board effort, with both of his coming on the offensive end, “because I’m not really good at rebounding now. I need to be more aggressive on the boards.”
When’s the last time you heard a three-point specialist talk about boosting his toughness on the glass? “Svi for a rebound” isn’t as catchy as “Svi for three,” but the junior remains determined to do more.
A little less than three weeks into the season, the No. 4-ranked Kansas basketball team has shot just 35.5% from 3-point range. Dozens of games remain to be played and it’s a small sample size, but that rate of success marks a noticeable dip from last year, when the Jayhawks had more shooting threats on the roster and hit 41.8% from downtown.
As many likely expected, three KU players have emerged as the top long-range shooters for the 2016-17 campaign: senior Frank Mason III and juniors Devonté Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk — the three top returning shooters for a program that lost Wayne Selden Jr., Perry Ellis and Brannen Greene as outside options.
So who will emerge as the top marksman on the Jayhawks’ perimeter? Depends on whom you ask.
“Obviously everybody can shoot,” Mykhailiuk responded. “You know, last game Frank was five-for-five from three, 100 percent. Every game’s a different game and different guys hit shots.”
As the wing from Ukraine referenced, Mason couldn’t miss in the rout of UNC Asheville on Friday, improving his accuracy from beyond the arc to 48% thus far.
So is Mason the Jayhawks’ top sharpshooter? That Bill Self character probably has an opinion on the matter.
“Yeah, Frank’s shooting it really well,” Self said. “But you guys get so hung up on what happens in one game against North Carolina Asheville. I mean, in the big scheme of things that really doesn’t matter. I’d rather see what happens consistently over a seven- or 10-day period. And certainly I think we’ve got multiple guys capable of having big nights like Frank did the other night.”
OK, the head coach doesn’t want to single one guy out. So what does surging sophomore guard Lagerald Vick think?
“Svi. Hands down,” Vick said without hesitation.
“Even on bad days he still is a good shooter,” Vick replied. “Coach always get on him when he’s not jumpin’ on his shot. You know he can make shots. I watch him shoot a lot. I get techniques from him. He’s definitely the best shooter on the team.”
Mykhailiuk has knocked down 11 treys, one fewer than Mason’s team-best 12 to this point. But it’s hard to ignore Graham as a top option. Even though he’s off to a slow start (32.4% from deep), Graham led Kansas in 2015-16 with 75 3’s on the season while draining 44.1%.
As far as Self is concerned, any number of his players are capable of being considered the best 3-point shooter in crimson and blue.
“I would say if we were having a HORSE contest, I’d say Svi. But depending on game situations and things like that, then Frank’s pretty good,” Self added. “But Devonté’s good, too. I won’t quite put Lagerald (Vick) and Josh (Jackson) in that group, but I think they could become, at any particular game, could be our best shooter in the game.”
Vick and Jackson have only made seven 3-pointers between them this year, so they definitely can’t lay a claim to KU’s unofficial shooting crown.
Still, Vick considers joining that conversation one of his goals. He noticed upon reviewing game footage earlier this season a tendency to fade backward some on his jumpers. So Vick has made a point since to stay straight up and down when he rises up for a release.
“I’ve been stayin’ in the gym, just workin' on my jumpshot, lookin’ at the film and stuff,” Vick said, “so that should help me catch up with those guys.”
Personally, I’d cast my vote for Mykhailiuk as the best Jayhawk from deep. He shoots with the form Vick is trying to mimic and has that feathery touch on his release that convinces you the ball will fall through the net each time it leaves his hands. Plus, at 6-foot-8, he doesn’t have to always put so much of his body into his longest attempts.
What’s more, Mykhailiuk, who shot 37-for-92 (40.2%) while playing just 12.8 minutes a game as a sophomore, said he feels good about his shot and thinks he’s better this year.
“I think I’m more confident,” he said, “and I get more open looks.”
— Below is a look at how each of KU’s rotation guards has shot from 3-point range through six games.
Mason: 12-for-25, 48%
1-for-5 vs. Indiana
0-for-1 vs. Duke
1-for-4 vs. Siena
3-for-6 vs. UAB
2-for-4 vs. Georgia
5-for-5 vs. UNC Asheville
Mykhailiuk 11-for-27, 40.7%
2-for-5 vs. Indiana
0-for-3 vs. Duke
2-for-4 vs. Siena
4-for-5 vs. UAB
1-for-6 vs. Georgia
2-for-4 vs. UNC Asheville
Graham 12-for-37, 32.4%
- 2-for-6 vs. Indiana
-1-for-6 vs. Duke
0-for-3 vs. Siena
4-for-9 vs. UAB
3-for-9 vs. Georgia
2-for-4 vs. UNC Asheville
Jackson 3-for-12, 25%
1-for-3 vs. Indiana
1-for-2 vs. Duke
0-for-0 vs. Siena
1-for-4 vs. UAB
0-for-0 vs. Georgia
0-for-3 UNC Asheville
Vick 4-for-17, 23.5%
1-for-3 vs. Indiana
0-for-4 vs. Duke
0-for-1 vs. Siena
0-for-3 vs. UAB
0-for-2 vs. Georgia
3-for-4 vs. UNC Asheville
Sure, Svi Mykhailiuk might be in Europe this summer, training with and playing for his native Ukraine’s Under 20 national team. But when the 19-year-old guard spoke earlier this week at the 2016 adidas Eurocamp, in Italy, it sounded like his Kansas coach, Bill Self, had just been in his ear.
DraftExpress.com caught up with the KU junior, who averaged 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists at the Eurocamp, as he and his team prepared for the upcoming Under 20 European Championships, in Finland.
Asked how the stop in Italy went for Ukraine, ahed of the July 16-24 international competition in Helsinki, Mykhailiuk came back with a Self-esque response.
“I think we’ve got a good team, but we’ve got a lot of work to do, because on defense we’re not really great,” said the 6-foot-8 guard, who clearly has learned defense and toughness earn players minutes back in Lawrence. “… but we just need to get better on defense and just talk more and (get a feel for) each other more, because we’ve just been practicing for 10 days and you can’t do a lot of stuff in 10 days. You can’t learn all of this in 10 days, so we just need a lot of time.”
Considered a first-round NBA Draft prospect for 2017 at this juncture, Mykhailiuk’s improving defensive skills showed up overseas. In the highlights provided by DraftExpress, “Svi” can be seen trapping hard on the wing, and swiping the ball away for a steal, as well as exploding through a passing lane for another takeaway, then finishing over a chasing defender at the rim.
According to the report, at one point a larger opponent tried and failed to post up Mykhailiuk inside.
“For me, if you can’t play defense you can’t play basketball, so I’m just trying to play defense, and offense just comes naturally,” Mykhailiuk told DraftExpress. “If you can play good defense it gives you a fast break on offense, and it’s a basket. It just depends on how you’re playing defense.”
Ah, yes. Offense. That aspect of the game certainly still matters to the third-year guard, as well. So don’t worry about “Svi for three” turning into a passé phrase next season. Mykhailiuk, who scored a career-best 23 points in KU’s NCAA Tournament win over Austin Peay this past March, looked even more comfortable with the ball in his hands while wearing the yellow and blue of Ukraine.
In the DraftExpress highlights, Mykhailiuk, who averaged 5.4 points in 12.8 minutes as a sophomore for the Jayhawks, looked more play-maker that spot-up shooter.
The 191-pound guard can be seen:
pulling up to nail a 3-pointer off an opening tip.
chasing down an offensive rebound and whipping a pass inside to set a teammate up for a dunk.
on a couple of occasions leading the break and dishing ahead for a Ukraine dunk in transition.
popping up to the top of the key and squaring up quickly to knock down a 3-pointer in rhythm.
utilizing a pick-and-roll to assist his teammate for a layup.
taking a handoff from a big man outside, then using the post player as a screener, giving him room to rise up for another successful shot from downtown.
surveying the floor well enough to rifle a look-away pass over his shoulder that hit a cutting teammate at the perfect time to convert a layup.
cutting hard backdoor for a basket in the paint.
making the best pass available in transition situations.
Still, Mykhailiuk didn’t come anywhere near painting himself as some kind of star during his interview. Again, the team-first concepts instilled by Self and other coaches he has played for through the years, such as Ukraine’s Maksym Mikelson, shone through in his words.
“My role is to help my team win. You know, do whatever it is to help,” said Mykhailiuk, who likely will continue to embrace that approach next season as a sixth man for Kansas. “If you need to take 20 shots, you take 20 shots. If you need to stay in the corner and (shoot) none and your team is playing good and they’re gonna win by doing that, it doesn’t matter for me what I’ve gotta do. I just want to see my team win.”
When he returns to KU and begins his third season in Self’s program, Mykhailiuk doesn’t anticipate a gift-wrapped expanded role or automatic increased playing time, either.
“It just depends on me,” he said. “If I’m gonna play good, I’m gonna play. And, you know, like Wayne Selden left, Brannen Greene left, so now I need to step up.”
That sounds like something “Svi” has heard before — probably from Self.
— Watch the entire DraftExpress video below:
While his Kansas basketball teammates entertain young campers and address their own areas in need of on-court improvements this summer in Lawrence, Svi Mykhailiuk certainly isn’t slacking off during his tour of Europe with Ukraine’s Under 20 national team.
In preparation for the Under 20 European Championships in Finland, Mykhailiuk and his Ukrainian teammates spent the past few days at the 2016 adidas Eurocamp, in Italy.
DraftExpress.com covered the international basketball showcase in depth, and it appears Mykhailiuk truly is getting a chance to shine.
On the first day of action, which happened to be the KU wing’s 19th birthday, the man known in Lawrence as “Svi” scored 19 points, made 8 of 21 shots and went 3-for-9 from behind the 3-point line.
Day 2 brought more success, with Mykhailiuk reportedly continued to show “solid” defensive ability, and put up 14 points in 29 minutes, as Ukraine rolled against France’s Under 20 squad. Again, “Svi for three” proved a common theme, with the 6-foot-8 prospect from Cherkasy going 4-for-10 from deep.
Finally, Mykhailiuk closed out his adidas Eurocamp experience in style, posting a triple-double — 12 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists — versus the Under 18 USA Select Team. DraftExpress reported it was “arguably his best all-around game of the Eurocamp.” From downtown, the Kansas junior-to-be made 4 of 11, including successful 3-pointers on catches and off the dribble.
According to the DraftExpress report, Mykhailiuk got a chance on this stage of his summer trip to stand out as a primary ball handler, too — a role he only took on in cameo stints this past year with the Jayhawks, as Frank Mason III and Devonté Graham seldom needed to relinquish the keys to the offense.
Mykhailiuk first made a name for himself at the 2014 Nike Hoops Summit, and this week the evolving basketball prospect reminded onlookers he is more than just a spot-up shooter.
DraftExpress.com reported “Svi” also stood out as a primary ball handler:
“Mykhailiuk proved comfortable operating out of ball screens as he regularly whipped passes to the roll man and the weak side shooter… Mykhailiuk is able to see over the top of the defense, and while he's a capable — yet not overly polished — ball handler, he's quick enough to turn the corner and find teammates while on the move. The Cherkasy native was also able to turn several of his 11 rebounds into transition buckets, pushing the ball fluidly up the floor and creating scoring opportunities with no-look and behind-the-back passes.”
It should be pointed out, too, that Mykhailiuk was not by any means a perfect player during his standout performance. According to DraftExpress, he missed all 6 of his 2-point field goals and failed to finish on a pair of dunks against France.
“He also had some struggles creating high-percentage offense in isolation situations, and proved to be a bit streaky as a shooter for the majority of the camp,” the report stated.
Regardless of the ups and downs that come during Mykhailiuk’s international competition this summer, each part of his summer abroad will serve him well in his development, just as the World University Games helped many of the Jayhawks a year ago.
This was just the first of many chances for Mykhailiuk — currently projected as the 25th pick in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft by DraftExpress — to take on new challenges and expand his perimeter strengths this offseason. More will come from July 16-24, in Helskinki, at FIBA’s U20 European Championship tournament.
By the time Mykhailiuk returns to Lawrence, he’ll find himself in an ideal spot for a breakout season. Opponents surely won’t overlook the young Ukrainian prospect, but he won’t have the burden of carrying a team, as the Jayhawks appear loaded yet again.
If the new-and-improved “Svi” currently on display in Europe can bring that play-making, off-the-dribble offensive game back with him to the U.S. and he finds ways in his third college season to become more assertive both in transition and in the half court, imagine how difficult it will be for KU foes to defend the likes of Mason, Graham, Carlton Bragg Jr., Josh Jackson and Landen Lucas.
Mykhailiuk might not even start next season, but it seems as if he is well on his way to taking his game to new heights.
Every once in a while, sophomore Kansas guard Svi Mykhailiuk flashes the kind of shooting and ball handling that reminds you he arrived at KU from Ukraine touted as a future pro, and likely a player who would leave college early for the NBA Draft.
Mykhailiuk exhibited his potential Saturday, at Kansas State, where the 6-foot-8 backup came off the bench to hit each of his first three shots from 3-point range, and added 4 rebounds and 2 assists in 20 solid minutes.
The thing is, one never knows from game to game these days whether “Svi for three” will be shouted during a Jayhawks run, because chances are he might not even get off the bench to check in.
Throw out the 195-pound sophomore’s 2 games against K-State (10 points in 21 minutes on Feb. 3) and his 24 minutes (3 points) in a KU rout at TCU, and Mykhailiuk has seldom stepped foot on the floor during live action in the past 9 games.
The Cherkasy, Ukraine native did not play at all in Kansas home wins over Texas and Kentucky, nor in the Jayhawks’ victory at Oklahoma.
Mykhailiuk played 1 minute at Iowa State, 4 minutes versus West Virginia and 3 minutes against Oklahoma State. In total, over the last 9 games, the talented 18-year-old has logged 73 minutes on the floor (about 8.1 minutes a game).
If Bill Self doesn’t have enough trust in Mykhailiuk to play him regularly in the Big 12, there is no way he would contribute in the NBA a year from now.
So should Kansas worry at all about losing Mykhailiuk (5.5 points, 1.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 40.2% FGs, 34.2% 3s this season, through 24 games played) at the end of the season to the NBA Draft?
Surprisingly, as recently as a few weeks ago, DraftExpress.com listed him as the 25th pick in the first round of the 2016 draft. But, boy, have things changed for Mykhailiuk on the mock draft board since then. In its current projections, Draft Express doesn’t have Mykhailiuk getting selected at all in the 60-pick, two-round draft.
That seems like good news for Self and KU. The Jayhawks could use a stronger, improved version of “Svi” back in Lawrence for the 2016-17 season.
Still, we have no idea what the weeks ahead could mean for Mykhailiuk. Will his showing vs. K-State be a turning point? Will he consistently play 20-plus minutes down the stretch as KU makes a postseason run? We just don’t know.
Such a scenario could put Mykhailiuk firmly back on NBA team’s radars. After all, even Draft Express still has him as the No. 42 overall available prospect.
Even if you see posts such as this one over at Upside & Motor, explaining why Mykhailiuk continues to draw NBA interest, the Draft Express projections indicate — at least for now — Mykhailiuk doesn’t appear to be a player who should declare this year.
The 2017 NBA Draft? Now that’s another story. Draft Express projects the still developing KU wing as the 21st pick, following what would be his junior season with the Jayhawks.