Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk breezed into the Allen Fieldhouse media room on Wednesday morning, a few beads of sweat still visible on his forehead. Wearing a blue Kansas basketball shirt and a pair of mesh shorts, Mykhailiuk had already worked up a brief sweat inside Allen Fieldhouse.
No matter that Mykhailiuk, the last member of KU’s 2014 men’s basketball recruiting class to arrive on campus, was just a few days removed from a transcontinental flight from his native Ukraine. No matter that less than a week ago, he was a 17-year-old competing against some of the best basketball players in the world in the FIBA World Cup in Spain.
No matter that his summer also included a trip to Bulgaria to play in the U-18 European Championships. Or that, after arriving on Monday evening, his next 36 hours were mostly dedicated to a pile of paperwork and orientation activities.
Mykhailiuk had “two days” to rest while back home in Ukraine. He deemed that enough.
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“I was at home for a couple days and here I was one day,” Mykhailiuk said, “So I have enough energy to practice.”
Mykhailiuk, the son of two educators, speaks conversational English — though he’s still mastering the finer points of the language. But the decision to forgo a potential professional career in Europe and play at Kansas was mostly about mastering his basketball skills and preparing himself for a potential NBA career.
“It was just my thoughts,” said Mykhailiuk, pronounced MYEEK-a-luke. “I thought that it would be easier for me to go to NBA from college than Europe. And it was my dream, like, when I was a child. I was looking for the NCAA, and it was my dream to play in the NCAA.”
During a brief interview session on Wednesday morning, Mykhailiuk casually showed an advanced knowledge of the Kansas program’s recent past. He watched Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid on television last year, and brought up Paul Pierce, Mario Chalmers, Kirk Hinrich and the Morris twins. Mykhailiuk has also followed the career of former Kansas center Sasha Kaun, who is currently playing professionally in Russia.
“It’s all about Kansas,” Mykhailiuk said.
A 6-foot-8 guard, Mykhailiuk signed with Kansas in May after he appeared at the Nike Hoop Summit in Portland during the spring.
Kansas coach Bill Self believes Mykhailiuk could make an impact as a freshman, but there are a couple of factors that could limit his playing time. For one, his age. Mykhailiuk turned 17 in June and could be one of the youngest Division I players this year. He is still growing into his body and missed an extra summer of workouts with KU strength and conditioning coach Andrea Hudy.
Mykhailiuk said he lifted weights this summer with the Ukrainian national team, but it’s safe to say the KU strength and conditioning program could be a culture shock.
“It will help a lot, because I will stay bigger,” Mykhailiuk said. “I will stay stronger, I will stay quicker. I will stay much better than I was.”
A native of Cherkasy, Ukraine — a city in the middle of the former Soviet republic — Mykhailiuk leaves his home country in the midst of an ongoing conflict involving Russia. Mykhailiuk said Cherkasy has been insulated from the violence in the southeastern part of the country.
“My city is in the middle of Ukraine, so it’s not affected (daily life) in my city,” Mykhailiuk said. “But it was closer to the border, it affected them — bombing, killing people, so it’s horrible.”
For now, Mykhailiuk’s focus is on basketball and his new teammates. Last week, he was coming off the bench in a loss to the United States national team — a limited taste of basketball against NBA All-Stars Derrick Rose, Kyrie Irving and James Harden.
“I think it’s physical and intelligence at World Cup — everybody is older for 10, 12 years,” Mykhailiuk said. “But physically it’s very hard. And also experience, you need to get a lot of experience to play at this level.”
The experience factor is something he can work on at Kansas. For now, he’s keeping his goals simple.
“My goals are to be a good player, to be a good personality, and to help my team to win,” Mykhailiuk said. “And also to be good at school.”