Just Who Is This Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk Character?

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

KU's latest blue chip recruit has me questioning all kinds of decency and decorum as I fawn over a 16 year old.

Note: Much of the info in this report comes from DraftExpress, wikipedia (I know, I know) and those ever so nebulous anonymous sources (scouts) who are familiar with European basketball

Yesterday, when 16 year old Ukrainian phenom Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk announced he'd attend Kansas, I celebrated in a manner that was equal to, if not bigger than, when Andrew Wiggins announced he was coming to Kansas almost exactly a year ago today.

Why?

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk measured 6'6" and 191 points at the most recent Nike Hoop Summit, pitting the best high school seniors in the United States against their age equivalents from around the world. Notably, Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid were on the world team last year. This year's team also had a lot of players on the international team who were playing high school basketball in the United States (such as Emmanuel Mudiay, who went to high school in Texas but represented the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Mykhailiuk though, is a true European. He's already played in the Ukranian League with Cherkaski Mavpy, averaging roughly 6 points per game and shooting 44% from three playing against guys as many as 10 years older than he is. Speaking of which, Mykhailiuk is the youngest player ever in Nike Hoop Summit history.

Just 6 ppg? And we're excited?

This is a 16 year old having to play against big time athletes who are 10 years older than he is. At the most recent Under 16 European Championship, Mykhailiuk averaged over 25 ppg, 8 rpg and 3 apg, and was named to the all tournament team alongside players from more established basketball nations Serbia, Spain and Greece. He'll be a year or two younger than most of his competitors in college, but you should see a guy who is a lot closer than the one who played at the U-16 Euros than the guy who averaged 6 ppg in the Ukrainian league.

What is perhaps most exciting, though, is that Mykhailiuk will have to spend two years at KU due to the NBA age limit. With one of his biggest areas for improvement being the need to add strength (more on that later), Mykhailiuk should benefit greatly from getting to practice against a talented KU team and work in the weightroom with Andrea Hudy, the best strength and conditioning coach in the country.

This comes with a caveat, of course. Mykhailiuk has been approached by numerous high level European teams, so he's going to be a flight risk for the entirety of his college career, much like Ioannis Papapetrou, who left Texas to play with Olympiacos in Greece. Every player is technically a flight risk, but what makes a guy like Mykhailiuk so attractive is his passport and his not counting against the limits that Euroleague has on the number of Americans who can be on a roster.

Wait, pro basketball? How is he eligible to play then?

In the olden days, he wouldn't be. The NCAA used to have a (terrible and archaic) rule that if you played with professionals, that was all you needed to end your NCAA eligibility. That was repealed back in 2010, and was supposed to be the impetus to get Enes Kanter ruled eligible. Whoops.

Still, players who play in pro leagues can't get paid above and beyond necessities (per diem, lodging and transportation directly related to competition, etc.) and there's no indication here that Mykhailiuk will run afoul of this rule.

How is he going to get college eligible, grades wise? Will the NCAA be a bunch of dicks?

Well, they might be. Who knows. But it seems unlikely at this point. Mykhailiuk has graduated high school, and due to the type of school he attended, there should be little to no trouble transferring those classes over. He does have to take a sort of entrance exam, but that shouldn't be an issue.

Who does he remind you of?

Seriously I hate comps. But the most common one that has been thrown out is Nik Stauskas. He's a tall white guy who can shoot well from the outside and, while he needs to add to his game inside the arc, it looks like he can get there. I'll go with Stauskas as my official Mykhailiuk comp.

OK, so what does he do well?

Mykhailiuk has a beautiful looking jumper, and his percentages back that up (though he did not shoot it well at the U-16 European Championships). Mykhailiuk, as Bill Self himself said, has a really high basketball IQ, can pass it really well, use both hands, create his own shot, and score in a variety of ways. Time will tell how he does on the defensive end of the floor, but with Bill Self harping at him he'll get every last ounce of his defensive abilities.

What can he improve on?

Mykhailiuk is just 16, so it stands to reason that he needs to bulk up a bit. Fortunately Hudy and natural maturation should be able to take care of that. He doesn't have a great wingspan, so that could limit his effectiveness going to the rim, and defensively, and he can be an inefficient shooter due to some of these problems. Not helping that perception of him, I imagine, is having to play with less talented teammates than he will be playing with the next two years, but he'll need to show that he can find good shots and score in traffic, as well as keep guys from driving past him.

Outlook:

I'm not sure of any statistical benchmarks for Mykhailiuk this year, but with him playing with probably more talent than he has in his life, Mykhailiuk's passing instincts and basketball IQ should shine. The son of a college professor and the graduate of a multilingual high school, he should have little problem adjusting to America or the American style of basketball after the initial shock. Even if he's unable to put a lot of muscle mass on, he'll be able to shoot jumpers over a lot of defenders and be able to get his teammates a lot of open looks with his passing ability. Methinks Perry Ellis will see a lot of open layups and Cliff Alexander will see his fair share of alley oops. If Mykhailiuk does get the strength necessary to finish at the rim though, he could be one of the best players in the country and a top 5 or 10 pick in the NBA Draft by the time he leaves KU.

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