April 11, 2012
TUCSON, Ariz. - University of Arizona men's basketball player Kyryl Natyazhko announced Wednesday that he will sign with an agent in order to pursue professional opportunities in Europe.
Natyazhko, a 6-foot-11, 265-pound center from Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, averaged 1.1 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.2 assists per game in 22 appearances in his recently completed junior season. He connected on 39.3 percent of his field goal attempts (11-of-28) and averaged 7.3 minutes per game. He posted season highs of five points on Nov. 13 vs. Ball State and six rebounds against both Mississippi State (Nov. 18) and Gonzaga (Dec. 17).
Natyazhko has yet to sign with a club overseas, but has identified a number of opportunities that could be beneficial to him.
"I'd like to thank the fans, my teammates and the coaching staff at Arizona," said Natyazhko. "It has been a wonderful experience for me to study and play here. I appreciate the efforts of everyone who helped me develop as a person and as a player. As hard as it is for me to leave, at this time I have to do what is best for me and my family and pursue these professional opportunities, but I plan on earning my degree in the near future. "
In his three-year college career, Natyazhko averaged 1.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.2 blocked shots per game in 91 appearances (nine starts). He shot 42.7 percent from the field (61-of-143) and sank 70.3 percent (26-of-37) of his free throw attempts. He twice scored a career-high nine points against Vanderbilt (Nov. 25, 2009) and against Northern Colorado (Nov. 21, 2010), while grabbing a high of eight rebounds Dec. 22, 2010, vs. Robert Morris.
"Two weeks ago Kyryl and I met regarding his future, and at that time he expressed to me his desire to pursue professional opportunities overseas," said Arizona head coach Sean Miller. "We agreed that he would only do it if an excellent opportunity presented itself. Since our meeting those types of opportunities, in fact, have become available to him."
Natyazhko also has experience with the Ukrainian national team, helping his U-20 team to an eighth-place finish at the 2010 European Championships, July 8-18, in Zadar, Croatia, where he averaged 17.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.
Natyazhko is not the first Wildcat to forego college eligibility for a professional career in Europe. Robertas Javtokas signed a contract with Lietuvos rytas Vilnius in his native Lithuania following his freshman season in Tucson in 1999-2000.
"All of us at Arizona support Kyryl's desire to begin his professional career," said Miller. "As a part of our program for three years, Kyryl represented himself as a great teammate, a hard worker and a good student off the court. We wish him well in his professional career."
Natyazhko plans to finish the semester and leave the university in good academic standing. His plan is to complete his degree requirements in December 2012.