Spending the summer with Ukraine’s under-20 basketball team seems to have rejuvenated Kansas junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk.
“What was good for me is I got my confidence back, I think,” said Mykhailiuk, a 6-foot-8 shooting guard, who led Team Ukraine in scoring (14.9 ppg) and was second in rebounding (5.6 per game) while also leading the squad in minutes played (29.6 per game) at the FIBA Under 20 European Championships in July in Finland.
Ukraine placed eighth in the 16-team field.
“The last two years I didn’t play very much. As you know, when a player is not playing, their confidence is getting low and this summer I played a lot. I played well I think. That’s what gets my confidence back,” Mykhailiuk added.
Mykhailiuk, who turned 19 in June and has to be one of the youngest juniors in the entire country — as a point of reference he’s four months younger than KU freshman Josh Jackson — averaged 12.8 minutes a game his sophomore season, connecting for 5.4 points and 1.3 rebounds per contest.
“I started playing better. I started taking more advantages and creating more shots, being aggressive more,” Mykhailiuk said of his play in seven games for Team Ukraine. “Actually I needed to score because that was my main option. I was (the main) scorer on my team, so that’s what I did. I would say I would take more responsibility over there because I was the leader of the team. I kind of did a lot more stuff than I did here.”
The only negative regarding Svi’s summer had to be his long-range shooting. A 40.2 percent marksman from beyond the three-point arc his sophomore season at KU, he hit eight of 42 threes for 19 percent.
“I was taking a lot of guarded shots because a lot of people know me. They were playing defense sometimes with two or three people (guarding him),” he said. “Sometimes I was taking quick shots, not thinking. I think that’s what it was.”
He did connect on 47.2 percent of his two-point attempts, good for an overall shooting percentage of 36.8 compared to his 45.0 percent mark a year ago at KU. He hit 85.7 percent of his free throws.
“Europe and America play with different balls. It was quite different. I shot it not really good but it is what it is,” Mykhailiuk said.
KU coach Bill Self saw some tapes of Svi at the under-20 tourney.
“I think he played well but didn’t shoot it very well, 19 percent from three,” Self said. “He’s at worst a 35-percent shooter from three. I know he can shoot. Everybody told me over there he played terrific. He just didn’t make shots. I think he’s become a much better all-around player,” Self added.
Mykhailiuk was the only Jayhawk to not spend the summer in Lawrence.
“It was great for him to see his family, and of course play at a high level with guys he grew up with. I don’t see any negatives to that at all,” Self said.
Team Ukraine trained in Mykhailiuk’s hometown of Cherkasy, meaning Svi had an extended stay with family for the first time in a long time.
“It was pretty fun,” Mykhailiuk said. “I didn’t spend a lot of time going out. We had a lot of practices. We practiced two times a day. I didn’t do much.”
He says he’s happy to be back in Lawrence, even though it doesn’t seem like he’d been out of the country almost three months.
“We’ve been texting each other, Face-timing,” Mykhailiuk said of corresponding with KU teammates. “They’ve been watching me. I’ve been watching them.”
His teammates did see a leaner Mykhailiuk upon his arrival to campus last weekend. He lost about 10 pounds back in Ukraine and is now 203 pounds compared to last year’s 207.
“I’m trying to go 200,” he said. “I feel better, faster, more explosive. That’s when I play better.”
Self would be OK with a 200-pound Svi.
“He looks good. He may have gotten a little heavy last year. He’s slimmed up a little bit,” Self said. “He told me this is the most explosive he’s felt in a long time. I’m excited to see him (play).”
Young sets visit dates
Trae Young, a 6-1 senior combo guard from Norman (Okla.) North High, who is ranked No. 14 in the recruiting Class of 2017 by Rivals.com, has set a recruiting visit to KU for Oct. 21-23, he reported on Twitter.
Young will visit Oklahoma on Sept. 16-18, Texas Tech on Sept 29-Oct. 1 and Kentucky on Oct. 14-16. He lists TBD (to be determined) for visits to Oklahoma State and Washington.