Kansas lands highly touted 16-year-old Ukrainian phenom

Jeff Eisenberg
May 21, 2014
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (via Kansas Athletics)

Very few programs could lose two players the caliber of Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid and avoid taking a big step backward the following season.

Kansas may be poised to get even better.

The Jayhawks bolstered an already impressive recruiting class Wednesday with the announcement that they have added Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a top 16-year-old basketball prospect from Ukraine. Those familiar with the sweet-shooting 6-foot-8 wing suggest he would be a surefire McDonald's All-American were he part of the class of 2015 in the United States.

Mykhailiuk, who will turn 17 in June, will play for the Ukraine national team this summer before arriving in Lawrence in the fall. NBA age requirements ensure he will spend at least two seasons at Kansas before he is eligible to enter the draft.

"Obviously, this is great news for us," Kansas coach Bill Self said in a school-released statement. "His skill level, knowledge and aptitude for the game are way beyond his years. I think that he will be an immediate impact guy. He is a guy that can play all three positions on the perimeter. At 6-8, he can play point, play the No. 2 (guard) or the No. 3 (guard). He allows us to be more versatile next year and certainly, there would be few people that would shoot it better than him."

The addition of Mykhailiuk means Kansas will add four coveted recruits to a roster that already returns starters Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden, point guard Frank Mason and elite shooters Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene. Kelly Oubre will be the heir apparent to Wiggins at small forward, Cliff Alexander will take over for Embiid at center and Devonte Graham will compete with Mason and Frankamp for playing time at point guard.

Where Mykhailiuk fits into that equation is unclear at this stage but it's obvious Self sees him playing a role next season despite his youth. The best guess is Mykhailiuk comes off the bench at wing as a top reserve behind Oubre and Selden, perhaps eating into minutes that might otherwise have gone to Greene.

Mykhailiuk solidified himself as a top prospect at the 2013 U-16 European Championships, averaging 25.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game as Ukraine finished 10th in the 16-team event. College teams paid scant attention, however, until the Nike Hoop Summit earlier this spring when Mykhailiuk expressed his desire to play college basketball in the U.S.

That sparked a whirlwind recruitment in which Kansas and Virginia appeared to emerge as front runners. Mykhailiuk, who has taken English classes all his life, explained why he chose the Jayhawks in the Kansas release.

"I liked everything," Mykhailiuk said. "From the history, the strength program and especially the coaches – everything. It's Kansas. KU has players every year. Coach Self has had so many players go to the NBA. That's an important thing."

Even before the commitment from Mykhailiuk, Kansas was a consensus preseason top five team next year with its success likely hinging on whether a quality point guard emerges. 

That's a pretty good position to be in for a program that lost two freshmen likely to be selected in the top three of the NBA draft next month.

"This could arguably be one of the very best recruiting classes that we've had," Self said. "I think of last year's class and I think of the class with Brandon (Rush), Mario (Chalmers) and Julian (Wright) – this class definitely rivals that."

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!