After spending the week at the McDonald’s All-American Game, 6-foot-10 Oak Hill Academy power forward Billy Preston feels a little more prepared for next season at Kansas.
“It prepares me big time,” he said after helping the West team claim a 109-107 victory Wednesday at the United Center. “It prepares me mentally and helps my IQ. It prepares to play in front of big crowds. I think it prepares me all across the board.”
Preston, who finished with 10 points and three rebounds in 16 minutes, still won’t be quite ready for the singular spectacle that is Allen Fieldhouse in full throat.
But he feels like the practices, scrimmages and games among two dozen of the best high school players in the country helped sharpen him for leap he’s about to make.
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“It was good,” Preston said. “It was definitely competitive, playing against the top players in the country, but it was a great experience for me. It was a blessing for me to get to play in the United Center and get to play against other competition that’s ranked highly from all around the country.”
Preston got off to a slow start offensively as the East surged to a 56-50 halftime lead, but his seven second-half points during a 2 1/2 -minute stretch helped the West solidify its lead en route to the win.
“My jump shot was falling smooth and I let the game come to me,” he said. “I didn’t force anything and we got the win. … Winning the game was definitely the biggest thing of the night.”
Preston admitted that he changed his mindset at halftime and became more aggressive.
“I felt like I could do a little bit more (in the second half), not just for myself but for the team,” Preston said.
He also took special note of the loud-and-proud Jayhawks fans in the crowd, who weren’t shy cheering for him.
“I definitely did (hear them), and it was good for me,” Preston said. “I’m glad I have some support in the crowd. I didn’t feel alone out there.”
Another goal for the week Preston said he’s “definitely” continued to prod IMG Academy point guard Trevon Duval to join him at Kansas.
Asked to describe the conversations he and Duval have had, Preston said, “They’ve been neutral. I’m just recruiting basically.”