It’s been a while since Billy Preston’s life has been quiet.
He played at four different high schools during his prep career and shortly after Kansas’ season started, he went under NCAA investigation after questions arose about the ownership of his car.
Preston left Kansas without playing in a single game and went to Bosnia for two and a half months to play basketball professionally before a shoulder injury had him return to the states.
Those have been topics of conversation for Preston, who is spending the week at the NBA Draft Combine as teams do their homework on one of the biggest mysteries in the draft.
Preston, a 6-foot-10 forward, said every NBA team that spoke to him on Wednesday and Thursday asked him about his car, the ownership of which was investigated by KU. A ruling on Preston’s eligibility, after he was held out of KU’s regular-season games, was never made public by the NCAA.
“They just wanted to know about my background,” Preston said. “About everything that happened. They wanted to know what happened with Kansas what happened with the overseas thing. I found out most of these teams have been watching me since high school.”
Preston said he’s been very forward with teams about what happened at Kansas, but declined to go into details with The Star about what happened.
When asked by a reporter what his opinion of the NCAA is, he said he didn’t have one.
A five-star recruit who was signed by Kansas coach Bill Self out of Oak Hill Academy in Virginia, Preston said he told teams his decision to leave Kansas was purely basketball related.
“I got into a situation with the NCAA,” he said he told teams. “It was a situation with the NCAA. That’s what it was. I was under investigation, they took their time with the process, I got the option to go play overseas and I was tired of waiting. So I made the decision to go overseas.”
Preston said he went to a dark place in the few weeks he was under NCAA investigation and unable to play at Kansas.
He said he didn’t know what the next step was while sitting out and his teammates could tell he wasn’t the same guy.
“Mentally I wasn’t there,” he said. “Making that decision to go overseas. Sitting out, being investigated by the NCAA. That whole time I wasn’t there. I was kind of distant.”
Even after he left Kansas, Preston said he kept in contact with his teammates and was still apart of the team group text.
Before fellow Jayhawk Devonté Graham was about to play in the combine’s five-on-five portion, Preston ran over to him for a proper handshake and some words of encouragement.
“Even in Europe I was still watching the games,” Preston said of the Jayhawks. “They were in Kansas and I was in Bosnia, and I was still getting texts from them.”
When Kansas made the Final Four, Preston made the trip to San Antonio to cheer on his former teammates.
Preston wasn’t sure if he’d get an invite to the combine because of the lack of film teams had on him. He heard from NBA player Terrence Ferguson, who also went overseas before declaring for the 2017 NBA Draft. Ferguson told him to stay optimistic about the entire process.
Originally projected as high-lottery pick when he signed with KU, Preston’s stock is in flux because team’s haven’t seen what he can do against high-level competition.
He was originally supposed to play alongside fellow Udoka Azubuike, his teammate at KU, in the five-on-five, but pulled out at the urging of his agent, who believes the move would preserve his stock.
Preston said he thinks teams don’t really know what he can fully do, since they’ve been going off his high school tape. He’s changed as a player since then.
“That was when I was a boy, he said. “I’m a man now.”