From Ukraine to UNC

From Ukraine to UNC

In some ways Myroslav Golodynskiy is a typical Carolina fan. He's passionate about Tar Heel basketball and can reel off his favorite players –and his least-favorite Tar Heel opponents. He knows each team's strengths and weaknesses and he watches every game live. But unlike most of us, Myroslav is watching from Ukraine, staying up all hours of the night to catch his Tar Heels.

Myroslav has never been to Chapel Hill, and on Tuesday he launched an indiegogo campaign to change that. He'd like to come see the Tar Heels in person, and he's trying to raise $900 to do so. After one day, he'd raised 20 percent of his goal.

I first became aware of Myroslav several years ago via Twitter. His insight and intelligent questions made it clear he knew his stuff. Yesterday, I spoke with him via the internet about his love of the Tar Heels and his campaign.

This interview had been edited for clarity.

Photo from Myroslav Golodynskiy's indiegogo page. 

Photo from Myroslav Golodynskiy's indiegogo page. 

So, you became a UNC fan by watching Tyler Hansbrough when importing an NBA Live draft class? What was your knowledge of college basketball before you became a UNC fan?

As odd as that sounds, this is correct. Obviously, I didn't start with Psycho T from the start, because when I first learned about best NBA prospects, it was all about Blake Griffin, Demar Derozan and other top guys. But reading about college basketball and watching some highlights led me to watching some game replays from random teams, and one of those teams happened to be Carolina. Funny thing is, I didn't know that Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, Sheed all went to that school, but when I learned about that, it wasn't even big deal for me, like, "Sure, why am I not even surprised?" They looked so great and dominated in 2008-09 season, that I wasn't even surprised about the GOAT being a former student of this university, haha. But first, it was a college of Tyler Hansbrough, Ty, Danny, Wayne and those guys from the ’09 team.

What was it like going back and rediscovering Tar Heel basketball history? We all experience it in real-time over here. Was it just a jumble of players and seasons, or did you go year by year and learn about the teams?

The more discovered college basketball history and I learned about it, the more I liked it. Since I grew up, I was a football –OK, I don't like this word, but I'm talking about soccer– fan, and still am, which is not an odd thing in Europe. It's the most popular sport here in Ukraine as well. Basketball was the second-best game for me. I watched NBA games of course, YouTube mix tapes . . . and classic Michael Jordan games on TV, when I always cheered against Chicago, because I didn't like how they always were winning. But after I started watching college basketball, it seemed much more interesting for me than NBA, and I'm not talking specifically only about Carolina. I was reading a lot, watching lots of videos, previous championship games from 1982, 1993, 2005 and starting to be closer to a pretty knowledgeable college basketball junkie, so it wasn't year by year, it was more like "Hmm, what about this fact or that fact?"

OK, so was it 2008-09 that you followed the Tar Heels game by game? What has been your experience since then?

The first two years I wasn't watching many basketball games, because, first of all, I didn't know many ways to do it, and I didn't understand how can normal person watch 2 or 4 AM games every week. And, of course, the next season after the championship was not much fun, but I like to think about it as my personal challenge: Did I really like this team, or did I just like winning? It turned out that I really was a Carolina fan, and since the 2010-11 season I started watching almost every game.

If I remember correctly (I think I do), the last UNC game I didn't watch was a UNC-Asheville game in November 2010. After that, I've seen every (and I mean every even most of exhibitions) game, got myself closer to grey hair and further from retirement age, but I was always a sports fan so it wasn't anything new to me.

Who have been some of your favorite players whose careers you got to see?

I've seen many of them since 2008, I got to see Steph Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard and some other All-Stars before they became NBA players, which is cool. And, of course, many great Tar Heels. Additionally to all UNC games, I watch much more other college basketball games than even regular American fans, so I can talk about almost everything, except low or most mid-major teams.

I also remember many players they always seemed to give Carolina fits, like Andrew Goudelock, Casper Ware, Tyrese Rice, and back in the day I liked almost all of them, even Greivis Vasquez, whose triple-double and OT win in 2009 I remember very well.

 How do you watch games? Are they on TV or do you have to find streams?

 I know where to find streams, so I rarely have any problem with UNC games. There are also WatchESPN and TheACC.com. Of course, sometimes stream quality is pretty terrible, but I'm not complaining. Live game with bad quality is always better than HD replay and it's not close for me.

 What were your thoughts as the tournament progressed last year?

My thoughts during NCAA Tournament last year were simple and similar: I'm going to die if they play another game like that. And they played four heartbreaking games out of six. When the last one of them was over, I was very happy, like every Carolina fan. That team, that coach deserved that for all of the "junk," like Coach Williams always says, they got during last five years, and after devastating loss in 2016 they came back and finished the job.

The way last season ended, it couldn't been better than that. Well, maybe if Marcus and Brice were able to get a ring, but oh well . . . Very happy for guys and coaching staff.

What do you think of next year's team?

Next year, I don’t put much pressure on the team, especially without Tony Bradley. The championship title gives a little bit a pass from me to next year's team. Just keep the Clemson streak, keep Coach Williams’ NCAA Tournament streak, beat Duke and I'm happy.

I expect something similar to a 2012-13 season, when we played small and had a very young front court. UNC doesn't have such great splash duo like PJ and Reggie this time, but senior Joel Berry makes it an upgrade to freshman Marcus Paige, and with help from Theo, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams and sophomore guards, this team could be dangerous on the perimeter. Very curious about freshman bigs. Don’t expect great things from them next year, but they have potential to grow and be a low post options one day. Expect some rebounding problems and some defensive problems in the paint, but more outside shooting, just like 2013.

Simply put, not a typical UNC team, but with Roy Williams and Joel Berry, it's always a dangerous basketball team.

What’s your reaction to the initial response to the indiegogo?

 First of all, it's a first day, but I already got more support than I ever expected. Not because I think there's not many good people, no, but because I didn't expect people were going to react seriously like that to a simple unfamiliar guy's wish. Honestly, when I started this, I was kind of skeptical about my chances, mostly because it's tough to get a US visa in ‘mid-major’ countries (just like at-large bid in college basketball), but with such support, I'm more optimistic now, so even if it won't happen this year, I'll try again next time, so the help that i'm receiving now will materialize into success.

 Thanks a lot, Myroslav! Hope to see you in person soon!

No problem, thank you. I hope so as well!

Support Myroslav's campaign to come to Carolina by visiting his indiegogo page.