Kansas basketball coach Bill Self headed to Thursday afternoon’s practice assuming freshman forward Billy Preston would be unavailable for Friday’s game against South Dakota State, set for a 7 p.m. tipoff at Allen Fieldhouse.
“We’ve got to prepare like we’re not going to have him. Then it would be a bonus if we did,” Self said of Preston, a 6-foot-10 Los Angeles native who missed Tuesday’s Kentucky game as the athletic department’s compliance officials tried to obtain a “clearer financial picture” involving Preston’s car.
“Against Kentucky we prepared like we were going to have him. That’ll be a little bit different.”
Self said he visited with KU administration before Thursday’s practice to see if there was any update on Preston’s situation.
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“The update is there’s no update,” Self said. “There hasn’t been a conclusion to it. Certainly there’s not a ribbon or bow put on it yet. Hopefully we’ll know more. I’m not (in) on that,” he added of not being included in discussions involving Preston’s situation.
“I don’t know that everybody’s on the same timeline that we’d all like for it to be. I still anticipate it being sooner rather than later, but it’s not yet.”
After the Jayhawks’ 65-61 victory over Kentucky, Self said compliance has been “checking on the car,” which was involved in a one-car accident Saturday that flattened tires.
“Nobody’s declared him ineligible or anything like that,” Self said of why Preston was being allowed to practice. “He’s been declared eligible by the NCAA through initial amateurism stuff and through his grades, met the qualifications. We’re definitely going to hold him (out of games) until we get to the bottom of this.”
Asked Thursday if Preston’s vehicle was registered to a family member, Self said: “I can’t comment on any of that stuff. When we have a resolution to it, we’ll be sure and let everybody know.”
KU used just seven scholarship players — bigs Udoka Azubuike and Mitch Lightfoot played 34 and 6 minutes respectively — in the win over Kentucky, which had a batch of athletic big men.
South Dakota State (3-0), the favorite to win the Summit League, happens to have an elite big man — 6-foot-9, 250-pound junior Mike Daum, who has averaged 21.3 points and 10.7 boards a game in wins over UC Irvine (65-54), College of Mary (78-54) and Alabama State (94-63).
“I was trying to think who he’s like. I’d say a poor man’s (Larry) Bird,” Self said. “He can really shoot. He has all the footwork, all the shot-fakes in his game. He can post obviously. He’s an out-in type player. He definitely creates some issues from a matchup standpoint.”
Daum has made 8 of 17 threes for 47.1 percent. As a team the Jackrabbits have fired up 87 threes, making 39 for 44.8 percent. KU (2-0) is 20 of 56 from three for 35.7 percent.
“They’ll have the best player arguably on the court most nights they play,” Self said. “Doke is going to be guarding (him) and that’s not what he does (play outside). We’ll have to figure some way to at least neutralize him.”
Self was thrilled with 7-foot sophomore Azubuike’s play against Kentucky. The Nigeria native had 13 points and eight rebounds while committing three fouls in 34 minutes.
“He had three (UK) guys lay on him for 34 minutes,” Self said. “Most teams won’t have three guys. I think his conditioning is really good. I think it can always get better as you get into a season. I don’t know anybody in game condition this time of year as you would obviously be in January, February. I think it’s pretty darn good (conditioning). It’s come a long way since the beginning of Boot Camp when he couldn’t make a time running two or three of our exercises and now I think he’s one of the best we have (conditioning wise).”
Self also was satisfied with the play of senior guard Devonté Graham, who had 11 points on 3-of-14 shooting with five assists, five turnovers and two steals in 39 minutes versus the Cats.
“I thought he played a much better game than what people said. One guy said it’s a game he’d like to forget,” Self stated. “Are you kidding me? Beating Kentucky … you never want to forget that. That’s great. I guess it’s a good thing if you can beat Kentucky and people feel you are a lot better than that. I thought he did a pretty good job. I thought he was pressing, probably trying a little bit too hard. When you are playing 39 minutes and are shooting the first thing to go are legs. I don’t think it’s unusual for guys to not shoot it great.”
Self said the Jayhawks needed to forget about Tuesday’s win over Kentucky with a capable foe next on the schedule.
“I don’t know I’d be too worried about that,” Self said of the team overlooking South Dakota State. “We didn’t play great against Kentucky. The media has made that pretty well known. I thought we were pretty darn good. The media has let everybody know it wasn’t an artistic or pretty game. I do think there’s a chance that (resting on UK laurels) could be the case. We’ll convince our guys. We’ll show them enough tape tonight what they (Jackrabbits) are capable of.”
Forward Lightfoot said: “Obviously it was a big win. We’ve got to look at the season, obviously it’s early. We’ve got a lot of getting better to do as I’m sure other teams need to get better. For us it’s going to be learning how to play small and learning how to play smart.”