Kansas University sophomore guard Svi Mykhailiuk wasn’t able to return to his birthplace of Cherkasy, Ukraine, to see loved ones during the Jayhawks’ short three-day holiday break in late December.
So home came to him recently, in the form of his mom, Inna, and dad, Iurri, who were in town for KU’s victories over UC Irvine, Baylor and Oklahoma.
“They stayed three home games, two weeks. It was pretty cool. I hadn’t seen them in a long time. I was really happy,” Mykhailiuk said after scoring seven points with two assists, two rebounds, two turnovers and a steal in Saturday’s 70-63 home victory over TCU in Allen Fieldhouse.
“We had a really good time. They don’t know the language that well. I think they are getting better. They’ve been here one time (before), so it’s not that hard for them,” Mykhailiuk added.
KU coach Bill Self enjoyed his meetings with the Mykhailiuks — sometimes with, sometimes without interpreters.
“Iurri speaks very broken English, and mom speaks no English, basically. When I saw them one day, they walked up, and it was like, ‘Congratulations,’ or whatever they said. It was in the middle of the day. I hadn’t done anything. I was walking down the hallway,” he added laughing.
“We saw them walking downtown twice. They talked about how great the weather was, balmy. It was 28. Iurri said it was minus-20 in Ukraine.
“I know it was great for Svi to see them. He’s an 18-year-old kid. He’s still the youngest on our team. Think about not getting to see your parents much. Of course, with technology now we can talk to ’em every day. It was good to have them here.
“They love it,” Self added of mom and dad watching Svi play ball. “That was Svi’s life over there. He trained all the time. They loved ball.”
The 6-foot-8 Mykhailiuk, who averages 6.2 ppg for the Jayhawks (15-2, 4-1), had a highlight-reel play in Saturday’s game. He raced coast to coast to complete a dazzling layup that gave the Jayhawks a 69-52 lead at 2:24.
“I was driving the ball. I saw the player turn and reach. I did a spin and laid it in,” Mykhailiuk said. “It was a pretty fun game. We always have fun when we’re playing. But the last two games (a win over TCU and a loss at West Virginia) have not been real good. We need to regroup, try harder in practice and games.”
TCU dominated the final two minutes, actually slicing that gap from 17 to the final margin of seven.
“We didn’t play very well on defense at all,” Mykhailiuk said of the last two games. “We need to work harder in practice, focus in on our jobs, help our teammates, have great effort and energy and come up to the next game at Oklahoma State (6 p.m. Tuesday in Stillwater) and try to win.
“I think the key is defense every game — defense, rebound and run the floor. If we play defense, we’ll have more breaks, easy possessions, more layups,” he added.
Self has not been pleased with the energy of late.
“We talked a lot about that, not from a punishment standpoint, but what was wrong at West Virginia from an energy level,” Self said. “They could have won the game, and we could have played very well. We didn’t give it a good chance because I thought our energy level was so low.
“I thought today was very similar (vs. TCU). We didn’t give anything for the crowd to get excited about, for the most part. It hurts when you basically miss six straight free throws — front ends and two-shot fouls. You have a chance to get some separation and have some things going. We kind of keep the other team in it. TCU didn’t quit. They didn’t go away. We had a chance to crack the game open. We never could get it done.”
He had more to say about lack of energy.
“I don’t think our guys played with a lack of effort. Our guys played with lack of energy,” Self said. “When you play with a lack of energy, sometimes you look slow. Energy is contagious. When you play with energy, you are always half a step quicker. You are always explosive. You are lighter on your feet. A lot of guys try real hard, but if you don’t have that bounce and that energy, you never look quite as quick as you do if you turn it up from an energy standpoint, and enthusiasm is a big part of that.”