Kyryl Natyazhko working on game

It's really difficult to gauge just how far Natyazhko has come since the end of last season since he isn't playing the same level of competition as he will see in the United States. But if he plays as smoothly during the regular season as he is right now in Europe, expect the Wildcats to improve as a team dramatically.

The start of the college basketball season may be a few months away but that isn't going to stop Arizona fans from getting excited about head coach Sean Miller's second season on the UA sidelines.

The first year is in the books and while the Wildcats failed to make the postseason, there is plenty of optimism heading into the 2010-11 season. With all five players from the 2009 class returning, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the basketball program.

While many expect players like Derrick Williams and Momo Jones to lead this team back into the postseason, the key to a great season is the progression of center Kyryl Natyazhko.

Natyazhko has spent the summer in Croatia for the European u20 Championships and has began to elevate his game. He is averaging over 17 points and 8 rebounds per contest and has displayed the type of game that will be required from him if UA wants to become a serious contender.

It was a rough freshman season for the Ukrainian. He found it difficult to transition to the Pac-10 game and struggled for most of the season, but he gained a reputation for being a hard worker and has a willingness to learn.

It appears to be paying off as he has become one of the biggest surprises in Croatia. He has displayed a great post presence but what could be even more encouraging is that he is shooting 40 percent from beyond the three-point line.

A player that looked out of sorts as a freshman, the experience in Europe this summer should make life at the college level a lot easier. It will still be a huge challenge for Natyazhko, but if he is able to step it up in 2010-11, the Wildcats are going to be a tough team to stop.

Consider that 2009-10 Pac-10 freshman of the year Derrick Williams won the award playing out of position, Natyazhko's improvement has to be encouraging to Sean Miller and his staff. If this is the player that shows up in November, Williams could be utilized more at the four position, which would make life tougher for the rest of the conference.

One of the Wildcats biggest issues last season was the lack of depth in the paint. Sure, Williams was a stud, but there wasn't as much help underneath as he would have liked. Giving Williams some much needed help underneath the basket would do wonders for not only Williams, but the entire roster.

It's really difficult to gauge just how far Natyazhko has come since the end of last season since he isn't playing the same level of competition as he will see in the United States. But if he plays as smoothly during the regular season as he is right now in Europe, expect the Wildcats to improve as a team dramatically.

Wildcat Authority Top Stories