Four-star center prospect Kyryl Natyazhko, who trains at the IMG Academy basketball program, has been on Arizona State’s recruiting radar since the summer, and this past weekend the Sun Devils brought him in for an official visit. Devils Digest talked to Natyazhko after his Tempe trip to get his impressions on his visit with the Maroon and Gold, as well as his recruitment in general.
“The visit was really good,” Kyryl Natyazhko told Devils Digest on Sunday night via email. “I got to meet with the President, with Athletic Director and all coaches. They also showed me the new (practice) facilities, it’s not done yet, but it will be really good.
“I would say everything I expected to see I saw. The new facilities are impressed me. And I thought people are really serious about basketball there.”
The center prospect has already visited Xavier, Pitt and Ohio and stated that all three visits were just as good as the trip to Arizona State. “I would give all my schools a 10 for visits,” he stated. “It’s hard to say what was better, it (Arizona State visit) was just different than other ones, because on all other visit I went, part of the visit was watching a live game.”
Natyazhko was hosted by Sun Devil player, and Latvia native, Rihards Kuksiks. The center, who originally hails from Ukraine, admitted that the possibility of playing with Kuksiks, as well as with 2009 signee and Russian native Ruslan Pateev, is appealing to him.
“It just a big plus for Arizona State,” he acknowledged, “that they already have two guys from Europe. We all can speak the same language. It’s really nice.”
Natyazhko, who plays for Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, added that the Sun Devils style of play is also appealing to him.
“(ASU head) Coach Sendek thinks I can perfectly fit in because of my versatility to play inside and out,” Natyazhko said, “and with my shooting ability. And I really like motion offense.”
The center indicated that he did watch ASU in-person as they beat Temple in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
In previous interviews the center implied that he prefers to play the power forward position, but he clarified that statement with us tonight.
“By saying play the four (power forward) position, I meant not only stay inside and be a guy who never goes further than the free throw line,” Natyazhko explained. “But I think all coaches know that I could help team not only playing inside.”
The center hit the AAU circuit in May, had a breakout July and has since become one of hottest uncommitted big men in the country. He arrived at the IMG Academy after his first cousin, Kyrylo Fesenko, of the Utah Jazz, made a call to that school. The 6-foot-10, 240-pound Natyazhko is ranked as the 10th best 2009 center by Scout.com and is ranked 64th overall prospect in the 2009 recruiting class.
Late in his senior season the center was averaging 21 ppg and 9 rpg. IMG Academy head coach Vince Walden has been impressed with the play of his center. “The area that he’s really improved in is his rebounding,” said Walden in a previous interview. “He’s got a great frame, thick legs and is a strong kid. To be so agile, we really thought he could increase his rebounding and dominate the game in that statistical category and he’s really improved.
“Kyryl is a physical player low on the block, that can play the 4 or 5 position. But he’s also a very agile player that can shoot the three. So he’s a tough mismatch and is a very versatile and intriguing player. His size is intimating but with his frame he should be better on defense.”
Walden, who had followed ASU’s Head Coach Herb Sendek’s teams for a few years now, believes that the Sun Devils could be a good fit for Natyazhko. “I have a 704 area code on my cell phone so I lived in North Carolina and I am familiar with Coach Sendek’s style of play,” stated Walden. “He does a great job utilizing a 4/5 position skilled player in isolations or pick and pop style.”
The IMG coach said that Natyazhko is looking for a school that has “a family environment – he’s a very personal kid that has a genuine interest getting to know the people around him.”
In his junior year Natyazhko averaged 16 ppg, 11 rpg and 1.6 bpg.
The center feels that his court smarts are his biggest asset. “I’m working on everything, everything is important for me,” Natyazhko commented. “Sometimes I do guard work outs, sometimes post player workouts, sometimes forward work outs.”
Natyazhko indicated that he has no favorites at this point, and wasn’t sure if he was going to take one more visit before the April 15th signing day.
“I think decision time should be soon, can’t say when yet, because I don’t know,” Natyazhko stated. “But the main factor for me (picking a school) is how they gonna push me, and develop me as a player and as a person.
“Any time that I will feel 100% sure I wanna sign, I will sign.”