Hype and expectations high for KU's Ukrainian sensation; but are they fair?
It's been happening in the NBA for the past dozen or so years and now seems to have trickled its way down to college basketball, as well.
Foreign-born players making an impact in the NBA and college basketball certainly is nothing new. But holding such players to the ridiculous standards established by some of Europe's biggest success stories has become tired and trite and simply is not necessary.
Such is the situation currently facing Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, the 6-foot-6, Ukrainian standout who committed to play his college ball at Kansas University on Wednesday.
It's not merely good enough for Mykhailiuk to be regarded as a quality player with a ton of potential. Fans and analysts alike have taken it upon themselves to make him the next great thing to come out of Europe. He's already been called the best European prospect since Ricky Rubio — Rubio, by the way, was selected No. 5 overall by Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2009 NBA Draft as a 19-year-old Spanish star — and the buzz surrounding him seems to be gaining steam by the hour.
Signing with a school like Kansas will do that for just about any prospect, but did we not learn anything from Andrew Wiggins? By every measure, Wiggins had a fantastic freshman season at KU, but because he was hyped up to the moon and back, with some even daring to utter the name “LeBron James” during comparisons, many were disappointed by Wiggins' production throughout his time with the Jayhawks.
Hype did that. Not Wiggins.
The whole concept is nothing new. For years, people have been searching for the next Michael Jordan. Thankfully, that ghost chase finally seems to be finished. For whatever reason, it seems to have become a bit of an obsession to immediately start looking for the next great thing rather than just enjoying these wildly talented players when they come along. Maybe that's a product of the world we live in these days. Maybe that's just human nature.
Either way, the whole charade, like the game of basketball itself, has recently gone global, with countless NBA franchises chasing “The next Dirk Nowitzki” for the past decade or so.
To my knowledge, no one has found him yet. And maybe that's the reason.
There's a chance that guys like Andrea Bargnani (No. 1 overall draft pick in 2006), Darko Milicic (No. 2 overall in 2003) or Nikoloz Tskitishvili (No. 5 overall in 2002) would have been regarded as top-notch talents with promise and been given the time to properly develop had they not been compared to or measured against what Dirk did. So let's hope that Mykhailiuk is allowed to become who he is and not constantly held up against some of the college game's most recent foreign phenoms.
I've already heard Michigan guard Nik Stauskas' name thrown out as a comparison for Mykhailiuk, and while that clearly does not carry the same kind of pressure as being compared to King James, it's still worth pointing out that Mykhailiuk will be very fortunate if his college career goes the way of Stauskas', who is a projected lottery pick in most mock drafts.
I'm all for comparisons and buzz and excitement. But I also think we've reached the point where some of these things have gotten way out of hand and do nothing but set up talented players to fall short of unrealistic expectations.
I don't doubt for a second that Mykhailiuk will be a solid player at Kansas and believe he could make a big-time impact right away. But I'm also good with waiting to see him play in a KU uniform before crowning him king of the Euros.