Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has been lighting up the statsheet for the Jayhawks to start the 2017-18 season, but will it persist?
Flashback to 2016. On a chilly night in Kansas City, junior Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk dropped 15 points and five rebounds on UAB in front of a packed Sprint Center crowd. Svi followed that up the following day with a lackluster three point performance against Georgia in the CBE Classic championship. Those two games would go on to illustrate his season, a mediocre average of 9.7 PPG and three rebounds. On Tuesday night in Allen Fieldhouse, Svi and company caught fire and went on to win 114-71 over Texas Southern. Senior Mykhailiuk tallied 21 points, a team high for the Jayhawks in the victory. No stranger to packing the statsheet, Svi made it the third consecutive game in which he lead Kansas in scoring.
The Ukrainian guard set the tone of his junior year in the first few contests. If he emulates that same fate in 2017-18, we are looking at one of the better players in Kansas history. We have known since 2014 that he can shoot the ball pretty darn well, but it was when the lights were turned on that we truly got a glimpse of Svi. Streaky shooting saw him turn from ice cold to on fire in the blink of an eye. Looking solely based on the start of the 2017-18 season, Svi hasn’t missed the mark on any of the four contests. In fact, his worst performance was in the season opener against Tennessee State. Even then he managed to log 15 points and five rebounds for the Jayhawks.
Senior leadership is important for any team wanting to make strides. Coming into the season, all eyes were turned on senior guard Devonte’ Graham and how he was supposed to fill Frank Mason’s shoes. Graham hasn’t necessarily underperformed, but it has been a more quiet start for him than many expected. That is when Lagerald Vick and Mykhailiuk come into play. Kansas is going to play small, so the Jayhawks rely on their guards, especially the ones who facilitate plays. When Kansas is going through a rough spurt, it relies on guys like Svi to make a momentum impact, like a three in transition. He was the one to provide a spark in the blue-blood battle against Kentucky in Chicago. And that spark was the one thing missing in Kansas’ Elite Eight loss to Oregon this year.
The problem with Svi is not his talent or his playing abilities. Svi emulates the same qualities as that old Ford your grandfather still drives. You know, the one that you almost need a moving auto shop for. Grandpa cannot make that car start on his own. He cannot choose when he wants it to start and when it would be a good time for it not to. That is something that is uncontrollable.
For Svi and Kansas, the key is confidence. If Mykhailiuk can ride on that momentum, the Jayhawks will be riding down Mass Street in April.