Son of a ''Shark'': Mongolia's Mike Sharavjamts waits for his turn
ULAANBAATAR (Mongolia) - The early weeks of November 2022 might end up being the most important stretch in the history of Mongolia basketball.
Of course, there were the Group D games of the First Round of the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Pre-Qualifiers which was held in Mongolia from 10-14 November. Not only was it the first time that the Mongolia senior national team had competed in a FIBA Asia competition, it was also the first time since the U18 Asian Championship in 2012 that a basketball event was hosted in the country.
The crowds roared as they watched their nation's heroes win their first ever game in a FIBA Asia competition and qualify for the Second Round at the beautiful UG Arena.
But that wasn't all of what Mongolia basketball fans have been keeping their eyes on.
Coincidentally at the UD Arena, just over 10,200 kilometers away from Ulaanbaatar in Dayton, Ohio, another significant moment in Mongolia basketball history was taking place on November 8, 2022.
In front of a reported full house of 13,409 spectators, Enkhiin-Od "Mike" Sharavjamts became the first player ever from Mongolia to play in an NCAA Division 1 game. More than just playing in the game, Sharavjamts was among the first five players on the court for the Dayton Flyers, becoming a rare true freshmen to start in a season opener for the team.
Even more than that, on Dayton's first possession of the game, Sharavjamts made a three-pointer to record the school's first points of the season as well as his first points ever at this level.
Mike Sharavjamts wastes no time getting on the board in his college career. His first basket was Dayton’s first basket of the season. Flyers opened game on 8-0 run and lead 12-5 at 15:58. pic.twitter.com/eI8eH4Xgoe— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) November 8, 2022
"It means a lot," Sharavjamts said. "and it felt good."
On his shoulders
"All of Mongolia is cheering for him," Bayarmagnai Baika Puntsag told Tom Archdeacon of the Dayton Daily News.
Puntsag is a consul at the Consulate General of Mongolia in San Francisco. He keeps the fans in Mongolia updated on their golden basketball boy's performances, as it is not easy to watch Dayton games live in Mongolia considering the time difference.
For such a moment in Mongolia basketball history, it's understandable that there were concerns and doubts.
"He's a young guy. He has so much pressure on his shoulders. He's not only playing for himself and his team, he's carrying his whole country on his back," said Puntsag.
But in the end, it was a happy ending to a happy beginning, as Sharavjamts finished his first game with 10 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 three-pointers, and 0 turnovers.
"It was a beautiful moment for us," Puntsag said. "This marks a new beginning, a new page for Mongolian basketball history, I can proudly say."
"Mike is breaking the ice. He's paving the way for Mongolian young people so they can believe in themselves."
If you aren't convinced by how much attention is being focused on Sharavjamts, consider that SPS, the television channel of the Mongolian National Broadcasting Service, had flew a production team out to Dayton in order to film and produce a documentary on Mike and his family. The first trailer which was released on October 17 has amassed nearly 250,000 views on Facebook, easily making it the channel's most watched video in the past month.
The hype is very much real.
Mike Sharavjamts. BUY STOCK IMMEDIATELY.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 16, 2022
Young Mike has obviously put in plenty of work by himself to get to this point, but he also gets some advantage from his father, Tserenjankhar Sharavjamts, who also goes by the awesome nickname of "Shark".
Tserenjankhar paved the way for his son to venture his basketball journey in the USA, as he had done when he was younger. The elder Sharavjamts spent his time making history on the basketball courts as well, becoming the first ever Asian Harlem Globetrotter.
In honor of #SharkWeek 🦈, throwing it back to our "Shark," Sharavjamts Tserenjanhor aka "Shark" who was the first Asian-born Globetrotter and played for us for three seasons from 2001-04. #TBT pic.twitter.com/panEophvOg— Harlem Globetrotters (@Globies) July 26, 2018
Shark was discovered by Dale Brown, the man who had previously discovered Shaq. Brown had been urged by FIBA Asia to attend Mongolia's first basketball clinic in Ulaanbaatar and there he met the 7-foot Tserenjanhor.
"He has such flair," said Brown as per Sports Illustrated. "I thought immediately that he was a Division I player."
Unfortunately, Shark was already 27 years old at the time so instead he became a Harlem Globetrotter. Playing in NCAA Division 1 would be carried on as a dream, left for his son to follow.
Baby shark… doesn't swim far from the father shark
Tserenjankhar started playing organized basketball only when he was 17 years old and had limited competition to challenge him before getting his opportunity. That would not be the case for his son.
The younger Sharavjamts might not have inherited all of his father's height (though he stands respective tall at 2.03M or 6'8"), but he would experience a high level of competition that would push him to be better.
Mike, who grew up playing against his older brother, had been able to compete with some of the best competition in the USA during his senior year of high school. Whether it was at the International Sports Academy (USA) or even before that at Prolific Prep alongside the likes of players like Jalen Green, it has really been a case of "iron sharpens iron" for young Sharavjamts.
Through all of that sharpening, Mike became one of the top 100 recruits in the USA with a skill set that coaches can't stop complimenting.
"He's so talented," Dave Briski, Mike's coach at ISA, told Dayton Daily News.
"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 added.
"He's really, really good," said Brook Cupps, who coached Mike at the Midwest Basketball Club as per Dayton Daily News. "I love Mike as a kid and as a player. His basketball IQ is off the charts. He understands the game. He anticipates. He sees the floor really well."
That is a skill that everyone seems to rave about Mike: His passing, especially for someone as tall as he is.
Most impressive aspect of Sharavjamts' game might be his passing for his size (measured at 6'8.75" in shoes at Nike Hoop Summit this year), he has an ample passing repertoire, able to find teammates with creative passing deliveries in pick-and-roll and in the early offense. pic.twitter.com/AukWH3S9wo— Ignacio Rissotto (@eyreball) October 14, 2022
Tserenjankhar himself has also communicated to correct stories referring to Mike as a 6'8" forward to mention him as a 6'8" point guard instead. Playmaking is a skill that Mike has had to rely on ever since he was young and now it's become a weapon.
"From the time he started playing organized basketball at seven or eight, he was always playing point guard and going against guys three and four years older and much bigger than him. It wasn't easy for him. He had to find a way to handle the ball and get it to other players," Shark explained.
"At 6'8", he can deliver passes in windows that other guys can't, and that's by far his best attribute: his playmaking, his ability to get other guys shots and make the game easier for teammates," said Cupps.
An early glimpse of the passing skills of Mike Sharavjamts. Toumani Camara missed this one but made his next two. Dayton leads 9-4 at 15:43. pic.twitter.com/fviiYfztZk— David Jablonski (@DavidPJablonski) October 29, 2022
"He'll tell you himself he'd rather assist on a bucket than score himself. That can be a problem sometimes, but he really makes everybody around him a better player," added Briski.
There's a certain flair in those passes, maybe even a similar flair as that Dale Brown had initially seen in the Tserenjankhar.
"So yeah maybe it passed down through blood to him," Tserenjankhar laughed.
Aside from slicks moves and height, Tserenjankhar also passed on the pride of being Mongolian to his son.
Go check out young Sharavjamts Instagram account. Right there next to the verified blue tick, his username reads "mongolianmike". It's a big part of who he is. And he's always eager to represent.
In 2019, he was Mongolia's representative at the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp.
When he played at ISA, he had the Mongolian flag stamped on the right side of his chest.
View this post on Instagram
Earlier in April this year, he represented Mongolia at the Nike Hoop Summit by playing for the World Team.
"To be chosen for the world team is the dream for every international player," as told by his father.
He's already played for the Mongolia national team on a couple of occasions, albeit in the FIBA 3x3 setting at the FIBA 3x3 U18 Asia Cup 2019 and FIBA 3x3 U18 World Cup 2019.
That's why the excitement is not only for watching Sharavjamts play and succeed in the NCAA. It's because the Mongolia basketball fans are all waiting for his first time donning the national team jersey at the international level. Mike was close to making that debut this year, but for now, the moment will have to wait.
Whenever that time will be, whether it's at the Second Round of the FIBA Asia Cup 2025 Pre-Qualifiers next February of during an international window for the Asia Cup 2025 Qualifiers should Mongolia advance, you can be certain that the Mongolia basketball fans will be ready to cheer their hearts out.