While his Kansas basketball teammates trained in Lawrence the past couple of months for the program’s upcoming trip to Italy, senior wing Svi Mykyailiuk prepared in his own distinct way, by practicing with and playing for Ukraine’s U20 national team.
Mykhailiuk might have missed out on the continuity that comes with sticking around campus with his fellow Jayhawks, but it didn’t stop him from having a constructive summer. Among the 180 athletes competing at the FIBA 2017 U20 European Championships, none scored more points than Mykhailiuk.
Although Ukraine went 3-4 at the international event and finished 10th out of 16 teams, Mykhailiuk showcased his individual talent in Crete, Greece, over the last week-plus, averaging 20.4 points per game in seven outings. The KU senior didn’t look one-dimensional, though. He also averaged 6.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
In fact, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz reported Mykhailiuk dabbled as a point guard in his team’s Sunday finale versus Turkey, and racked up six assists in the first quarter alone, often pitching the ball ahead in transition for easy baskets. He finished the 85-82 loss against Philadelphia 2016 first-round pick Furkan Korkmaz and Turkey with a near-triple-double: 24 points, nine rebounds, nine assists.
“I’m a leader, so I have to do a little bit of everything,” Mykhailiuk said in an interview with Schmitz. “Every time I get the ball, I’m trying to score, trying to be aggressive, trying to involve my teammates in our offense. Just trying to create all the time, but just kill. Every possession just trying to kill with a pass or with a shot or with a rebound.”
The only player at the event to achieve a 20 points per game average, the 6-foot-8 Mykhailiuk told ESPN he is capable of contributing as a scorer, passer and rebounder, like he has this summer for Ukraine, at the college level and beyond.
“I think so, because here I’ve shown what I can do and I’m trying to do it next year at Kansas, because I’m going to be a senior,” Mykhailiuk said. “I’ve been in the program for three years, and I think coach trusts me. I trust him. And showing what I can do here is letting him know what I can do at Kansas, too.”
Back in Lawrence, KU coach Bill Self tracked Mykhailiuk’s progress, and shared with reporters the 20-year-old Ukraine star actually played in Greece with an injured wrist.
“It wasn’t bad. He didn’t miss any time,” Self said. “But he nicked his wrist up. But he’s scoring the ball.”
Mykhailiuk, who will join his coach and KU teammates next week in Italy for exhibitions in Rome and Milan, shot 49-for-124 (39.5 percent) from the floor for Ukraine. He connected on 16 of 49 (32.7 percent) 3-pointers and shot 80.6 percent (29-for-36) on free throws.
Self, though, admitted there could be one drawback to Mykhailiuk’s lengthy offseason European excursion.
“I’m a little nervous that when he comes back, maybe he’s played a lot of ball, but he’s gonna have to really commit in the weight room,” Self said. “I guarantee whatever they’ve done (with Ukraine team), he hasn’t done nearly what he’d be doing with Andrea (Hudy, KU’s strength coach) here. That put him behind last year, too.”
As Mykhailiuk’s KU coach referenced, he also played for Ukraine in summer of 2016, averaging 14.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists. During his ensuing junior year with the Jayhawks, Mykhailiuk produced 9.8 points, 3.0 rebounds and 1.3 assists, while shooting 44.3 percent overall and 39.8 percent on 3-pointers. Mykhailiuk initially entered his name in the 2017 NBA Draft, but decided to withdraw and finish his four-year college basketball career at Kansas.
“I’m happy he’s playing,” Self said of his pupil’s FIBA experience with Ukraine. “He needs to play, and he needs to see the ball go in the hole.”
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.