“I’m excited,” Sharavjamts said. “I’m just happy that I’m a Flyer. Dayton feels like home. I’m ready. I just want to play at the highest level and learn and get better.”
Sharvajamts will make history as the first native of Mongolia to play Division I college basketball. That’s only one reason his story is so interesting. He’s a 6-foot-8 point guard, and Dayton needs depth at that position. He’ll be another top-100 recruit on a roster that includes the highest-ranked recruit to play for Dayton this century: forward DaRon Holmes II. He’s the son of one of Mongolia’s most famous athletes, Sharavjamts Tserenjankhar, a 7-foot center who played for the Harlem Globetrottters 20 years ago and was known as the Mongolian Shark.
Adding Sharvajamts to the roster creates another fascinating storyline in what has the potential to be one of the most memorable seasons in Dayton basketball history. First, Sharavjamts gets to enjoy a few more weeks of being a high school kid in northeast Ohio. He sat down for an interview with the Dayton Daily News on Tuesday in an empty classroom at Andrews Osborne Academy with his ISA coach, Dave Briski.
The interview touched on many subjects:
• What Sharavjamts misses about home: the food, of course.
“It’s a lot of meat,” he said.
• How difficult it was to learn English: “I went to the states for the first time when I was like 12, and I think the only word I knew was, ‘Hi.’”
• What his experience sitting behind the bench at UD Arena for Dayton’s victory against Davidson on March 5 was like: “That was a huge game. The energy was crazy. That’s the energy I need in the future.”
Sharavjamts has been with ISA since last summer and picked the program because it plays a national schedule against many of the most talented teams and players in the country. He used the last year to get ready for the next level.
“I got better at shooting,” Sharavjamts said, “and I got better at reading my teammates and what they like to do and what I can do for them.”
“Mike’s season with ISA went very good,” his dad wrote in a direct message on Twitter. “He played as team leader and showed everybody that he is general on the floor.”
Sharavjamts averaged 10.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 24 games. He shot 51.2% (44 of 86) from 3-point range.
ISA played Link Academy, La Lumiere and Overtime Elite, which all are considered among the best prep programs in the country, as well as Westtown School, which includes Duke recruit Dereck Lively II, the No. 1 recruit in the country.
Sharavjamts saw his profile rise during his season with ISA and after he committed to Dayton in December. He ranks 95th on ESPN’s list of the top-100 recruits in the class of 2022. On3.com bumped him up from No. 76 to No. 40 in their latest update.
“He’s made us all better coaches,” Briski said, “and I mean that with the highest-level compliment. He’s so talented, it took us a while to figure out how to challenge him. As far as development, we didn’t teach him how to shoot. I just think he’s improved his jump shot because he was able to get the reps that he needed. I don’t think we’ve ever touched his jumper. I love his jump shot. I think it was about just making it more consistent. But again that was reps. He lives in the gym. He loves the game. He’s easy to coach. I think we kind of challenged him to get away from certain tendencies and to expand his game because the scary thing about Mike is eventually he really won’t have any weaknesses.”
Briski praised Sharavjamts’ work off the court as well. He gained close to 20 pounds in his year with the program. Dr. Jack Lemmon, ISA’s strength and conditioning coach, helped with that. It wasn’t all done in the weight room. Protein shakes helped him add to his frame.
“He’s obviously got more to gain,” Briski said. “Everybody says, ‘He’s a skinny kid.’ Well, he was strong before he got to us. He was skinny but strong. Now he’s in a whole different class. He looks so different than he did in September. We put a lot on our guys as far as responsibility, and he answered the bell. He’s matured as most kids do when they’re at boarding school, and he was able to kind of come into his own. He’s ready. He’s ready for June 15. He’s going to go in there and be able to hang. He’s in a tough spot as far as he’s the only freshman. He’s going to be a freshman coming to a top-20 team where he’s trying to earn minutes. It’s going to be a hard challenge, but I think he’s up for the challenge.”
Asked what he can bring to a team that expects to return all five starters and seven of its top eight scorers, Sharavjamts said it’s an ability to create for his teammates. He considers himself a point guard. He used to play with his brother, who’s three years older, and was the smallest player in the group. He had to bring the ball up the court. That continued as he gained height. He’s 19 now but said he may still be growing.
“Last year, he grew up 2 inches,” Tserenjankhar wrote. “I think it’s enough for a point guard. My and Mike’s idol, Magic Johnson, was a 6-9 point guard.”
When Sharavjamts flies home to Mongolia next week, he will spend time with the national team, which plays Thailand on June 2 and Malaysia on June 3 in pre-qualifiers for the 2025 Asia Cup. The games will take place in Sri Lanka.
Sharavjamts also represented his home country in a different way at the Nike Hoop Summit in April in Portland, Ore. He played for the World Team against a U.S. team that included the top nine recruits on ESPN’s list of the top 100 players in the class of 2022.
Sharavjamts described it as a great experience and showed him again his potential. He had two points, two blocks, two steals, one assist and one rebound in just under 11 minutes. The U.S. team won 102-80.
“To be chosen for the world team is the dream for every international player,” his dad wrote. “I liked the last few minutes when he played as point guard. I think he showed the world that he is very dangerous when the ball is in his hands If he played as point guard the whole game, I think they could beat the American team.”
Tserenjankhar thinks Dayton has Final Four potential next season with his son on the roster.
“I know that they will work him out very well and teach him a team system,” he wrote. “I know that coach (Anthony) Grant and (Ricardo) Greer and others will take good care of my son. I’m happy as a father that we chose the Flyers and greatest fans in basketball.”