Turning Pro Early: Natyazhko Chooses Europe Over Finishing With Arizona Wildcats

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 11: Kyryl Natyazhko #1 of the Arizona Wildcats grabs a rebound over Alex Stepheson #1 of the USC Trojans in the first half in the semifinals of the 2011 Pacific Life Pac-10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Staples Center on March 11, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

He's not going to be confused with Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall or Jared Sullinger, but while those three underclassman are just a number of college players who have already declared themselves as early entrants into the 2012 NBA Draft, Kyryl Natyazhko is making some early pro moves of his own.


Earlier this week, Natyazhko left the University of Arizona's basketball team and intends to play professionally in Europe after a three-year college career that was less than impressive.

The 6-11, 265 pound center averaged 1.1 points, 1.6 rebounds and 0.2 assists per game in 22 games last season as a junior, and during his three-years at Arizona averaged 1.7 points, 2.0 rebounds and 0.2 blocked shots per game in 91 appearances.

Aside from the sub-par numbers, is this another growing trend we will start to see with college basketball?

When times get tough on campus, jump to play ball overseas.

Right now, that is the route Natyazhko has decided to travel. For some foreign-born college players that option remains a constant back-up plan.

This past season at Arizona was filled with growing pains for Natyazhko, a native of the Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine who first came to the U.S. from the Ukraine in 2007 and enrolled at IMG Academy in Florida.

Back in late February, Natyazhko was suspended for one-game against USC because of an unspecified violation of team rules, which essentially became a telling sign of where Natyazhko's tenure at Arizona was heading. Head coach Sean Miller grew increasingly exasperated at Natyazhko's lack of frontline production over the centers time with the program, so foregoing his senior season of college was understandably a mutual decision despite Miller explaining Natyazhko, "would only do it if an excellent opportunity presented itself."

This isn't to say Natyazhko won't find success opting to play in Europe. At 22-years old and with his size the offers should be there. And while Natyazhko has not yet signed with a club overseas and is in the process of signing with an agency, the suspect numbers he put up at Arizona could limit his options on where he'll play overseas.

Yet the numbers don't tell the whole story here. Depending where Natyazhko signs -- perhaps with BC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, his hometown team in the Ukrainian Basketball SuperLeague - experience will certainly go a long way.

In 2010 and rooted in the Ukrainian National Team, Natyazhko helped his under-20 team finish eighth at the 2010 European Championships in Croatia, and averaged 17.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.

Those are the kind of numbers Sean Miller thought he'd see in Tucson.

Instead, Natyazhko is turning pro a year early and heading overseas.

Chances are he won't be the last either.

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