LAWRENCE — The worst way to discover Svi Mykhailiuk’s personal goals ahead of his senior campaign, as it turns out, is by posing the question to the Kansas guard himself.
Asked for his individual aspirations Monday afternoon following the Jayhawks’ first boot camp workout of his final collegiate season, Mykhailiuk instead chose a more macro-level answer.
“I would say the main goal is to win a national championship,” Mykhailiuk said. “That’s what we’re trying to do every year — and also win the Big 12.”
But what, the follow-up question asked, is the NBA hopeful looking to improve and show from a personal standpoint?
Again, no dice.
“Just to improve everything,” he answered, “and just be great — a better player and teammate.”
In that aspect, Mykhailiuk already appears in midseason form — at least in terms of taking the Bill Self-programmed team-first approach to everything.
The 6-foot-8 native of Cherkasy, Ukraine, flirted with entering the NBA Draft this offseason before announcing in late May he would join fellow guard and close friend Devonte’ Graham in returning for a senior season. Just hours after taking part in an individual workout with the New York Knicks on May 24, Mykhailiuk posted the following message to his Twitter account:
“Senior year,” he wrote. “Here we gooo!”
An ankle injury forced Mykhailiuk to withdraw early from the NBA combine earlier that spring, when he was still undecided on his future. Arguably the most surprising number from his brief showing at the event was his 6-5 wingspan measurement — three inches shorter than his listed height.
An anonymous poll of NBA executives taken by ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman recommended Mykhailiuk return to school.
“He’s still really young and can be a catch-and-shoot guy,” one NBA executive told Goodman. “The question is whether he has a bigger role at Kansas next year than he did the past couple years.”
Currently projected by NBADraft.net as a late second-round selection in next year’s draft, Mykhailiuk likely knows what areas he needs to show scouts to move up the big board … even if he isn’t willing to publicly identify them.
Mykhailiuk has dropped 20 pounds since the end of last season and now weighs a lean 207 pounds. To drop the weight, Mykhailiuk ate a lot of “salads, green stuff” and stuck to a strict policy of “no sodas and straight water every day,” he said.
He seems to already be reaping the rewards.
“I feel like I’m faster with the light weight and I’m more athletic,” said Mykhailiuk, who averaged 9.8 points and three rebounds last season. “It just helped me overall with my game.”
Reid Forgrave of CBSSports.com is more bullish on Mykhailiuk’s draft stock, listing him as the No. 24-overall pick in a mock draft posted over the summer.
“Remember that Svi was the youngest player in college when he began his career at Kansas, so he’s really a sophomore-aged player,” Forgrave wrote. “While he hasn’t lived up to sky-high projections, Svi is still a big, smooth wing who can shoot it.”
Mykhailiuk, who turned 20 in June, proved that much this summer.
Playing for Ukraine’s under-20 national team at the FIBA 2017 U20 European Championships, Mykhailiuk averaged 20.4 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.4 assists in seven games at the 16-team event.
The only player in the 180-athlete field to surpass 20 points per game, Mykhailiuk thrived in the “bigger role” the NBA scout told Goodman he wanted to see him take on at KU.
“I led them in scoring because I was the leader of the team and everybody was just giving me the ball,” Mykhailiuk said. “I was trying to help my team to win (and) to get every possession in my hands and come up with a pass or a shot.”
While he spent most of the summer overseas, Mykhailiuk returned for the Jayhawks’ exhibition tour of Italy in early August, meeting up with his teammates in Rome.
Talks of their national championship aspirations, he said, began almost immediately.
“We talk about it because the last two years were pretty close to a Final Four,” said Mykhailiuk, referencing the Jayhawks’ back-to-back Elite Eight defeats. “This year, we just gotta get there because we were really one step away and felt like we should’ve been there, but we didn’t make it for some reason.”