Based on Oak Hill Academy power forward Billy Preston’s pronoun usage, he took Kansas’ loss Saturday in the Elite Eight against Oregon pretty hard.
“We took a tough loss, but I don’t think it was necessarily Oregon that beat us,” Preston said Tuesday during media day for the McDonald’s All-American Game at the United Center. “We beat ourselves. I don’t think we played like ourselves. That’s nobody’s fault. We just didn’t bring it that game, like we weren’t hitting shots.”
Preston, of course, didn’t play in the game, but the 6-foot-10, five-star prospect — ranked No. 8 overall by Rivals, No. 19 by 247 Sports and No. 20 by ESPN — already feels like part of the Jayhawks’ family.
He signed with Kansas in November after coach Bill Self won him over during an official visit six weeks earlier.
Self’s sales pitch about Preston’s critical role on a roster minus point guard Frank Mason, center Landen Lucas and probably 6-foot-8 guard Josh Jackson, who’s projected as a lottery pick if (and when) he declares for the NBA Draft, was persuasive.
“Next year’s going to be kind of a rebuilding process now that Frank is gone and Josh is possibly leaving, but I definitely think we’re going to have the pieces to make the (NCAA) Tournament next year and go far in the tournament,” Preston said.
That wasn’t all that sold Preston on becoming a Jayhawk.
“Just talking with coach Self on my official (visit), he gave me the whole rundown on the tradition of the school and the tradition of the basketball team,” Preston said.
It was impressive — as impressive as Self’s staff.
Preston singled out the relationships he has not only with Self, but also with assistant coaches Kurtis Townsend and Jerrance Howard, as a major reason he chose to play next season at Allen Fieldhouse.
Preston said Self’s message “about how he would possibly use me to help the team and help myself hopefully make it to that next level” resonated.
He believes his versatility as a scorer and rebounder will allow for a smooth transition into Big 12 play.
“Being able to do it all, I’ll do whatever I have to do to help my team get the win,” he said.
Preston’s also been on the recruiting trail this week in Chicago.
He’s talked with small forward Brian “Tugs” Bowen II of La Lumiere in Indiana, but he’s working hardest to convince IMG Academy point guard Trevon Duval that Lawrence is the place to be.
“It’s his decision,” Preston said of Duval, who was his teammates in 2015-16 at Advanced Prep International in Texas, “but I want to get in his ear a little bit and pick his brain about KU.”