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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Having his cake, defeating it too

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Annie Marum/ Arizona Daily Wildcat UA vs. USC during the Pac-10 Tournament.

Kyryl Natyazhko discovered his biggest weakness this summer, and it wasn’t on the basketball court.

“Cakes,” Natyazhko explained.

After working relentlessly during Arizona’s Elite Eight run, Natyazhko couldn’t help but indulge in Ukraine’s pastries when he returned home in June. Thanks to his sloppy eating habits and lack of exercise, the 6-foot-11 junior blew up from 285 pounds to 310 pounds.

“I was just eating a bunch of cakes, carbs and stuff like that,” Natyazhko said “I went home and just started eating all the good food and the next thing you know I wasn’t taking care of myself the right way like I should.”

While Natyazhko’s month-long eating binge wasn’t his proudest moment, it served as a blessing in disguise. The 20-year-old big man came back to Arizona on July 1 on a mission to cut weight and get in better shape than ever before.

“I came here, just admitted it and said ‘That’s the end of it, it’s time to get back to work,’” he said.

Through daily two-and-a-half hour workout sessions with Chris Rounds, the UA associate director of performance enhancement, Natyazhko is now down to 274 pounds with more muscle than last season.

“He’s had a very good offseason,” said head coach Sean Miller. “He’s worked extremely hard on his body to put himself in a better position moving forward.”

Every Monday through Friday, Rounds gave Natyazhko one-on-one sessions that included an hour-and-a-half of cardio — bike, treadmill and stairmaster — followed by an hour of lifting.

“I want to give all the credit to coach Rounds. He pushed me really hard as soon as I came back on July 1,” Natyazhko said. “He pushed me especially on days I wasn’t feeling like working out.”

With Derrick Williams gone and Arizona relying heavily on freshmen bigs Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol to produce, Natyazhko needs to be in the best shape of his college career as the Wildcats will lean on him now more than ever.

Miller said they don’t need him to be an All-Conference-type player this season, but Natyazhko needs to play more minutes and give the Wildcats a physical presence in the paint.

“We’re counting on Kyryl,” Miller said. “He has to play more minutes and he has to be a better player for our team this year than he was last year. I think we’re all counting on him to be better and a more instrumental part of what we’re doing.”

Natyazhko averaged 1.9 points and 2.2 rebounds on 50.0 percent shooting in 9.5 minutes per game last season. Miller said he showed promise at the end of his sophomore campaign, especially in doing the little things — setting screens and clogging the paint defensively — that don’t show up in the box score.

“One of the things that gives me great confidence is the last month of his sophomore year, he was instrumental in a lot of big plays that we made, especially on defense and I thought really settled into a role on offense,” Miller said. “I really think he’s picking up where he left off.”

While he played in all 38 games last season, Natyazhko never totaled more than 17 minutes in a game. With Williams and his 8.3 rebounds per game now awaiting the end of the NBA lockout, Natyazhko will have an increased role.

If his new and improved body is any indication, he’s on the right track.

“I just want to be the best player I can be. Do everything better than I’ve done before,” he said. “If I want to reach my goals I have to improve everything so I’m just looking forward to that. I feel like I’ve already done something to my body. Now it’s just time to do something on the court and just help the team with every way I can.”

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