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April 15, 2009

Getting to know Kyryl Natyazhko

The on-court talents of Kyryl Natyazhko are now well known across the high school and college basketball scenes.

A versatile 6-foot-10, 250-pound forward/center, Kyryl averaged 24 points and nine rebounds a game for the IMG Basketball Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Rivals ranked him the No. 9 big man in the 2009 class, and his name popped up almost daily in newspapers and blogs across the country recently as he patiently waited to make a decision on the right college for him.

He announced his intention to attend the University of Arizona (as most Wildcat fans are now celebrating) this past weekend at the Wazoo Basketball Classic, so now it’s time to get to know more about Kyryl’s background.

First and foremost, it’s KAH-rill naht-YAHS-ko. The rest, well, see below.

KYRYL ON…

COMING TO IMG ACADEMIES MORE THAN A YEAR AGO FROM UKRAINE… I didn’t speak English at all. I wasn’t nervous, but I didn’t realize how hard it would be without having my parents around and not knowing the language.

Kyrylo Fesenko (Utah Jazz center) is pretty much the reason I came here. My dad is his Godfather. He came here and trained before the draft and told us how nice it was. My parents said if I want to challenge myself as a person and as a player, I should go. For me, it was hard with food. In Ukraine, mothers or grandmothers cook food. Here, it seems like everyone likes fast food or restaurants. I can’t wait to get some of my mom’s food, especially soup and mashed potatoes.

LEARNING THE LANGUAGE… I speak four languages now - Ukrainian, Russian, Lithuanian and English. I learned English by putting down notes and phrases on cards and hanging them on the wall next to my bed in the dorms. Every night, I’d try to learn something new. I was reading books and dictionaries all the time.

WHOM HE MODELS HIS GAME AFTER… I’m just a student of the game. Anytime I have a chance, I’m always watching NBA and college games. I’d say mostly Michael Beasley and Chris Bosh. They are inside/outside players. They can shoot the ball well and are tough enough to go inside, too.

FOUR OTHER PLAYERS IN HISTORY HE WOULD CHOOSE TO PLAY A GAME WITH TO WIN $10 MILLION… Shaq, MJ, Wilt and Beasley. Mike could play the point. He can play any position. We’re going to play big ball.

HIS HOBBIES OUTSIDE OF BASKETBALL… Video games like 2K9 and March Madness. Listening to music. I like The Game. Young Jeezy. I read a lot. I like going on the Internet and just learning more about the world.

CHOOSING U of A AND INSTANT POPULARITY… I felt bad about not choosing Arizona State (one of the finalists for his decision), and I’m ready to get extra-specially booed when we play them. But the Arizona coaches told me that at away games, we’ll often have just as many fans there as the home team. Plus, the Pac-10 is one of the best conferences in the country.

As soon as I made my decision, my Facebook went crazy. I had like 300 friends, now it’s up above 500.

HOW IMGA HELPED HIS GAME… The coaches made me more athletic and tougher inside. They helped my dribbling skills. The campus is great. You can just work on your game and focus on basketball and school. Plus, there are athletes from all around the world. There’s a tennis player here from Ukraine who is one of the best in the world. I played tennis with him once, but I hate to lose, so I only play tennis with my basketball teammates now.

HIS FUTURE AT U of A AND BEYOND… My goal in life is just to get better every day. Don’t waste time. In basketball, just get stronger and more athletic. I want to be ready to contribute at Arizona immediately. As for the NBA, it’s like touching the sky to me. I’m still dreaming about playing at Arizona right now.

See another video on Kyryl here.



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