University of Kansas

Svi Mykhailiuk is close to a new school record. How KU's coaches helped him get there

KU senior Svi Mykhailiuk on playing Clemson in the NCAA Tournament

Jayhawks' senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk spoke Thursday inside the KU locker room on playing Clemson in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
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Jayhawks' senior guard Svi Mykhailiuk spoke Thursday inside the KU locker room on playing Clemson in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

Svi Mykhailiuk is saying all the right things.

He says he didn't know about the DraftExpress video scouting report of him that was uploaded after his freshman season at Kansas. He says he's an improved player since then anyway, so that type of thing shouldn't mean much now.

Still, when looking down at an iPhone screen and seeing "Shooting consistency" as one of his three weaknesses in the 2015 video, the KU senior guard can't hide a quick smile.

"It changed a little bit," he says with a laugh.

Yes, Mykhailiuk has come a long way in his four years with the Jayhawks.

And perhaps this is the best time to talk about that, with the guard just two shots away from a new KU record.

Quicker release

KU assistant coach Kurtis Townsend noticed the shooting release first.

When watching Mykhailuk in his first months on campus, Townsend saw a player whose setup was too slow. Like most high school players, Mykhailiuk had a tendency to catch the ball, dip his hands down, then come back up before attempting his shot.

"The competition he played against, he was probably able to take a little more time getting if off," Townsend said.

That wouldn't work in the Big 12. So Townsend joined Mykhailiuk in offseason drills, staying close to him on some shots and feeding him passes off curls other times.

The main message: Get the shot off as quickly as you can.

"It's muscle memory," Townsend said. "Once you get used to doing it all the time, then you're going to shoot it like that."

Mykhailiuk also put in additional work on his own. He had a routine of putting up 250 NBA three-pointers after practice, something that continued through non-conference this year when the game schedule was lighter.

"I think I improved every year," Mykhailiuk said.

That showed up in the numbers.

Mykhailiuk went from a 29 percent three-point shooter his freshman year to 38 percent the next. The season after, he more than doubled his outside attempts while improving to 40 percent.

None of that compares to what he's done this year, though.

And Mykhailiuk believes KU's coaching staff deserves an assist for that.

Offense, Svi evolved together

Mykhailiuk watches four KU sets on an iPhone — each ends with him making a three — and is asked which of the plays is his favorite.

"All of them," he says quickly.

The 27-second clip is a good peek into how KU's offense has evolved — even from a season ago.

Until last year, coach Bill Self's teams tended to follow a similar formula. Two bigs were on the floor at all times, while KU primarily looked to get the ball inside to post players with scoring angles while also letting guards create in ball-screen settings.

That changed last year with Josh Jackson. In order to get the best players on the court, Self and his staff created "Four game," a four-guard offense that used dribble handoffs and spacing to create driving angles and open shots.

Even more adjustments were needed this year with Mykhailiuk's differing skill-set. KU's coaches quickly realized how valuable Mykhailiuk three-pointers could be for their offense, so they created new ways to free him up on the perimeter.

From his home in North Carolina, Gibson Pyper — creator of The Basketball Playbook, an online X's-and-O's resource for coaches — has been impressed with the KU coaches' ability to adapt in creating their new calls.

"It's something I really haven't seen Kansas do before the last two years," Pyper said.

Pyper helps to explain the nuances. On one play, Mykhailiuk is able to run the baseline and read the defense, picking which teammates' screens to use to get himself the most open; this "floppy" set is something Kentucky runs often.

"Sometimes when I'm hot or we need a three, coach trusts me, so we're going to run that play," Mykhailiuk said.

There's another set where Mykhailiuk sets a ball screen for Devonté Graham, then gets another screen from teammate Silvio De Sousa to get open. The Houston Rockets run something similar to get forward Ryan Anderson open threes.

Then there are two other plays where Mykhailiuk fakes ball screens before relocating quickly to the three-point line. Pyper has seen a similar pick-and-pop action with KU before, but that was with Perry Ellis.

Opponents might be willing to let Ellis shoot an unguarded mid-range shot in those instances. It's tougher, though, to ignore Mykhailiuk on the perimeter when he's attempting an open three.

"It just puts so much pressure on the defense right away," Pyper said.

These sorts of offensive changes are part of the reason Mykhailiuk has a chance to accomplish something significant Friday against Clemson.

Mykhailiuk — with 46-percent accuracy — has hit 110 threes this year, which is one away from tying KU's single-season record set by Terry Brown in 1991.

"It would just be an honor to be a part of history," Mykhailiuk said.

From a big-picture view, Mykhailiuk has played an important role in KU's offensive success this season.

When Mykhailiuk gets an unguarded spot-up attempt, KU scores 1.75 points per possession, according to Synergy Sports Technology. That ranks No. 1 in the nation among players with at least 50 tries.

"He's going to go down as one of the best shooters we've had for sure," Townsend said.

Not bad for a player whose shooting was in question just three seasons ago.

"I think all of (the work) has paid off," Mykhailiuk said. "I just keep shooting the ball whenever I'm open."