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.


Rodney Crain 4 years ago

Be careful Matt, there are a lot of people on here that believe the hype on Svi. He looks like a very nice player with a lot of potential but coming in late not sure exactly how quickly he will fit into the rotation.

Eliott Reeder 4 years ago

He's only 16 years old! Nobody knows what kind of player he'll be in a year or two. He could plateau or he could keep improving, maybe even add a couple of inches. I think the best thing I've read is Self's quote about his 'want to'. You can't teach drive and ambition and desire. The best players are those guys that put in all the extra work before and after practice. Basketball has developed into a game with increasing levels of speculation involved. I don't like it either, but it is what it is. At least it gives us more to talk and read about (and write about in your case Mr Tait) during the offseason...

Suzi Marshall 4 years ago

First impression reading this article is - James Naismith would be overjoyed with the global impact of basketball. The DeBruce Center, with the Original Rules, should be an international sensation...maybe on par with Springfield. Didn't Naismith want Lawrence to have the basketball HOF?

I don't know of many people getting overly hyped about Mykhailuk. Everyone knows his age and we do have Frankamp, Green, Selden, Oubre and Mason in the backcourt. We all saw the problems Wiggins had finishing and with his handle but were never expecting his great defensive abilities. Reports that Mykhailuk is a poor finisher is a buzz kill, in my book.

I think the recent buzz/hype is more about Self. The guy never gives up! Even after major setbacks, like not signing Turner, where he gave the Easter Sunday final push, he keeps churning. It's that kind of never-say-die attitude that transfers to a team, which leads to things like the last MO win and '08 Memphis game.

Rodney Crain 4 years ago

I think Self needs to be working hard to cover for some earlier setbacks. Play at the point had to be a lengthy topic during last season, and inconsistent shooting from 3 as well. I still would like him to fill that last scholarship with a Big, although I have no idea on whom that would be. I have always like Self's style, and I agree it is the reason we win some of those miracle come back wins. "It ain't over 'til it's over", always loved Yogi.

Robert Brock 4 years ago

I am confident that the kid will not get into the rotation until he learns to play defense the way that HCBS requires him to play. Who knows how long that will take?

Sean Lancaster 4 years ago

Confident? Self allowed Tharpe to play with poor D. Self allowed Perry to play bunches with poor D. And Greene shouldn't even touch the court until he learns to play acceptable D, yet even he got some minutes this past year.

Titus Canby 4 years ago

Charlie and Eliot, I think you both hit the nail on the head. 1. Heck with the recruiting rankings. I just want a final four and NC. Give me the 2012 team any day over last year's collection of individuals. 2. I don't expect much of Svi his freshman year. He's just too young, and looking at his stats, didn't he just shoot 28% from beyond the arc last year?

Given all that, I'm looking forward to next season. I truly expect Ellis to be a superstar. Seems like everyone is overlooking him and focusing on the shiny new objects.

Lance Cheney 4 years ago

I don't know if I would classify last year's team as a "collection of individuals," which unfairly connotes that they were all out there for themselves. They were a team, they all cared about and wanted to help each other, sometimes to a fault. What it was was a young team, with very little experience and no true leader. But I agree with your other points.

Greg Lux 4 years ago

I for one am personally thrilled to have an incoming quality player who will be here for sure at least 2 years. I am sick of OAD's. I want quality players like Frankamp, Selden, Ellis, Greene, Traylor, Lucas, Mason and others who want and need to be here learning and improving year after year. Those players are the key to the long term success of our Basketball program. Don't get me wrong OAD's are special kids and fun to watch at times, but they are also limited in their abilities to work as a team player and team play is essential to winning at the highest level. Wiggins for all his talent was mia at the time we needed him most. That's sadly a product of youth and inexperience. I would take a seasoned Junior over a OAD any day because when it's crunch time the seasoned player will probably be in the game and producing when the OAD player is lost in inexperience not knowing how to help his teammates.

Mark Lindrud 4 years ago

I also believe by the 2016 draft the NBA will change the rule to 20 when they're eligible to do so. This kid will be here 3 years barring a return to Europe. If he stays then that could be amazing, but we've got a good team already. He won't be here to gel with the team until the fall so I'm tempering my early expectations for now of this kid. I'm looking forward to his growth though.

Jenny Brown 4 years ago

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brent flanders 4 years ago

Curious, what did our last "great" recruits actually produce for KU?

Xavier, Selby, Wiggins, etc.

Yes, Big 12 Championships...great amongst a weak set of competition but in the end when it came to the tourney, how did they do against the chalk?

Since 2004, his Kansas team has been knocked off by a No. 9-seed or lower in the NCAA tournament five times

Steve Zimmerman 4 years ago

add Frankamp... wonder if it has something to do with BS system.

Nathan Scholl 4 years ago

Just let the kid enjoy college in the U.S. and playing for the best basketball program in the country.

Steve Corder 3 years, 12 months ago

When have expectations been fair or even come close to matching reality?

Jonathan Allison 3 years, 12 months ago

only with the 99% of recruits who are not hyped as one-and-done prospects.

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