Svi Mykhailiuk could've turned pro 4 years ago; he's glad he chose KU instead

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk gives a hug to Kansas head coach Bill Self before his senior speech.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk gives a hug to Kansas head coach Bill Self before his senior speech. by Nick Krug

Nearly four years ago, at the age of 16, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk had a life-altering decision to make.

Already an accomplished youth basketball player within Ukraine’s national team program, as well as the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague, it was time for Mykhailiuk to pick:

• Stick with the established protocol for promising young European talents, and sign to play professionally.

• Or head to the U.S. and take a crack at college basketball.

Upon seriously contemplating his options, it came down to relocating to Spain to join Real Madrid or migrating even farther west to play at the University of Kansas.

Mykhailiuk, now known as “Svi” by anybody associated with the KU basketball program, of course, opted for a decision that may have seemed odd to his contemporaries at the time.

“Most of them try to stay there and make money,” he related this past week, during the last days of his four seasons with the Jayhawks.

Reflecting on his unique basketball path now, is the 6-foot-8 guard from Cherkasy, Ukraine, glad he chose Lawrence, Kansas, and college over Madrid, Spain, and a contract?

“Yeah, for sure,” Mykhailiuk replied, without hesitation. “I met a lot of new people. I’ll be able to get a degree from Kansas and just be a part of a program like Kansas and make it to the Final Four.”

KU and 15th-year head coach Bill Self couldn’t have reached college basketball’s ultimate weekend for the first time since 2012 without Mykhailiuk. The senior guard’s 236th 3-pointer as a Jayhawk tied an Elite Eight matchup against Duke with less than 30 seconds to play in regulation, allowing Kansas to reach overtime and eventually emerge victorious.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a three to force overtime with seconds remaining in regulation, Sunday, March 25, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) puts up a three to force overtime with seconds remaining in regulation, Sunday, March 25, 2018 at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Neb. by Nick Krug

Further memorable baskets wouldn’t follow in a national semifinal loss to Villanova, in San Antonio. Mykhailiuk completed his KU journey with 10 points and three assists, in defeat.

He shot 44.4 percent from 3-point range as a senior and leaves the program with the current record for 3-point makes in a season (115). The final “Svi for 3,” in his 136th game and 70th start, moved him to fourth place all-time at KU for 3-pointers in a career, with 237.

Even more important to Mykhailiuk, he can now proceed to the professional ranks confident his experience at Kansas shaped him into a better player.

“Being here four years, being coached by Coach Self, and he’s a hall of famer,” Mykhailiuk said, “so I think if I hadn’t got here I wouldn’t have played for a hall of famer.”

Self thought so highly of his Ukrainian recruit that he even tried the freshman out as a starter at the age of 17. Although that move didn’t stick past a six-game stretch of the 2014-15 non-conference schedule, Mykhailiuk said his relationship with Self only improved from that point. By his sophomore and junior years, Mykhailiuk noticed Self pulling him aside during practices for more and more conversations.

“If I’m open, he always wants me shooting the ball, no matter what,” Mykhailiuk shared of how Self boosted his confidence. “He’s always telling me, ‘Just be a player.’”

The shooting, passing, rebounding and defensive reps could have come anywhere. Mykhailiuk feels grateful his took place at Kansas these past four years, because he learned more about how to be an impactful player as a result.

“It’s all about the mental part. It’s not about physicality and stuff,” he said of some of his biggest lessons. “It’s just about how bad you want it and how much you’re ready.”

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) holds up his share of the net as the Jayhawks celebrate a trip to the Final Four following their 85-81 overtime victory over Duke on Sunday in Omaha, Neb.

Kansas guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (10) holds up his share of the net as the Jayhawks celebrate a trip to the Final Four following their 85-81 overtime victory over Duke on Sunday in Omaha, Neb. by Nick Krug

After testing the NBA’s draft waters a year ago, Mykhailiuk determined he wasn’t yet prepared to leave college basketball behind. Attending the league’s combine and receiving feedback from scouts, coaches and general managers proved beneficial in his development, too.

“I think it just helped me mentally, knowing I can play against other people. And it helped me know what I’ve got to do to go to the next level and be a better player,” he said.

Mykhailiuk took all the information from Self and NBA decision-makers and turned it into a second-team All-Big 12 season. He averaged career-highs with 14.5 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.9 3-point makes per game.

“Just be more aggressive,” Mykhailiuk said of the most significant piece of advice he carried with him into his final season, “and do whatever you can to help your team.”

Still just 20 years old (he’ll turn 21 in June), Mykhailiuk projects as a mid-second-round pick in the 2018 draft, four years after he could have become a young pro in Europe. Other than Ukrainian teammate Ilya Tyrtyshnik, who played at Ole Miss this past season, most of his peers chose a more typical basketball path.

What made Mykhailiuk different?

“That’s just me,” he said. “Every person’s different. I just wanted to play NCAA.”

Comments

Steve Corder

....and his life will be the richer for it!

2 weeks, 5 days ago

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Kurt Eskilson

What a terrific student athlete. It's been a great pleasure to watch him mature into a key member of this year's Final Four Jayhawks! I'll always remember him as one of my all-time favorite Hawks.

2 weeks, 5 days ago

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Austin Bergstrom

So glad we don't have to hear about his age anymore. Best of luck Svi

2 weeks, 5 days ago

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Janet Olin

I am at least impressed, if not more so, that Svi earns his degree in 4 years in a language he didn't speak when he arrived. Wowser. Think about that. Bravo!

2 weeks, 3 days ago

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Dave Miller

I'm gonna miss hearing "SVI FOR 3"...

2 weeks, 4 days ago

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Tony Bandle

In the NBA, he'll be in the developmental league. In Europe he will be a hero and a superstar.
Gee, I wonder which route he will take? Best wishes and thanks either way.

Hey, Austin..how much did you accomplish before you hit 21? The fact that what he was and did in relation to his age will always be a key part of his legacy.

I never did learn to spell his name. That legacy will continue for me with the kid we signed this year from Kansas City. Please someone come up with a nickname.

2 weeks, 4 days ago

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Titus Canby

You already have come up with a nickname... "KC Kid." I'm sticking with that.

2 weeks, 4 days ago

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Harlan Hobbs

Svi has proven himself over and over again. To come to a new country at 16 had to be an intimidating experience, but he flourished as time went on.

He is bright and a solid player. I agree that his best opportunities are probably in Europe as he could be almost a superstar over there. However, given how his defense has improved (the Duke game was the epitome with him effectively guarding Bagley by himself) and the fact that his shooting has become far more consistent, his NBA prospects are still possible.

The biggest thing is that he has grown as a man, is getting his degree, and has a wonderful future ahead of him regardless of where it takes him. We can be thankful that he was a Jayhawk player for four years and is now a Jayhawk for life. Hope he comes back to the campus often.

Thanks to his parents who have obviously instilled many mature qualities in him and to Coach Self and his staff who have prepared him both physically and mentally for the future. This is a constant for Coach Self and is the main reason why we all can be so proud to have him in charge of the program.

2 weeks, 4 days ago

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Terrence D Cernech

Svi's age, his skill set, and his physical attributes, all point to a successful NBA career. His experience at KU and his maturation as a team player bodes well for him. I predict a ten year career which means he will make some serious money and still be a thirty-something. I would like to see him join Embid in Philly.

2 weeks, 4 days ago

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Kent Richardson

Made me a fan from the get go. We saw glimpses here and there of his play making ability. That type of vision and flair will be freed at the next level.

He will be remembered and appreciated for a long time. Jayhawk for ever!

2 weeks, 4 days ago

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Steve Zimmerman

Svi for three!! Your jersey will be in da House some day! Rock Chalk!!!

2 weeks, 2 days ago

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