Kansas guard Svi Mykhailiuk remembers his freshman year practices well.
That’s because he got yelled at. A lot.
“I did a lot of dumb plays,” Mykhailiuk said. “I just passed the ball where a lot of people were, just trying to do a no-look pass.”
Over four years with coach Bill Self, the 20-year-old Mykhailiuk says he’s matured, learning that flashy plays often aren’t necessary or effective.
That teaching point has led to this, perhaps the most amazing stat of the Jayhawks’ young season.
Mykhailiuk has 94 points … and two turnovers.
Those numbers sound impressive for a reason. Mykhailiuk is the only player in the nation with 90 points or more with fewer than four turnovers. He also has no giveaways in his last three games and has gone 115 consecutive minutes without a miscue.
“Just valuing the ball,” Mykhailiuk said. “Don’t do touchdown plays, like half-court passes, stuff like that. Just, like, be calm.”
He probably doesn’t get enough credit for this part of his game either. Like a risk-averse quarterback, it’s tough to fully appreciate basketball players who reduce their negative plays.
An example: When Mykhailiuk executes a straight-line drive to the rim and doesn’t try to freelance or cross over, we don’t often think of that as a “positive” play; instead, it’s just seen as a guy doing his job.
Added up over dozens and hundreds of possessions, though, that becomes valuable. Mykhailiuk is a big reason KU ranks 25th nationally in turnover percentage while on pace to be Self’s best-ever team in that particular stat.
So what does a Mykhailiuk turnover look like? His first was in the opener against Tennessee State, as he rushed a lob pass that was just behind teammate Lagerald Vick.
His last giveaway came at the 11:57 mark of the first half against Kentucky when the Wildcats’ Shai Gilgeous-Alexander deflected Mykhailiuk’s pass, then leaped out of bounds to save it to a teammate. By the way, Mykhailiuk remembered that sequence — “I think one was against Kentucky” — when asked if he could recall either of his two turnovers.
That’s it. If one lob is a foot to the left and another pass is deflected a few more inches to the sideline, we could be talking about a 94-point, no-turnover stat line.
As it is, Mykhailiuk still has experienced an early-season breakout with help from his improved ball security.
He has maturity — and good listening skills — to thank for that.