Friday, November 18, 2016
The Kansas men’s basketball program finally landed its top-tier player in the Class of 2017 on Friday, when Billy Preston chose the Jayhawks on ESPNU.
Preston, a 6-foot-9, 220-pound forward from Oak Hill Academy, is ranked by Rivals.com as the No. 8 player in the 2017 class and many believe his potential might be higher than that.
Preston (seated in jeans and hat in photo above) chose Kansas over finalists Indiana, Syracuse and USC and did so on the strength of his stellar visit during Late Night in the Phog back in early October.
Preston was one of several visitors in Lawrence that weekend and he appeared to be the one having the most fun, playing to the crowd, wearing the KU gear, enjoying every aspect of the season kick-off event that has proven plenty successful in helping the Jayhawks land recruits during the past several years.
Another thing that seemed to help Preston pick Kansas was his comfort and familiarity with the KU coaching staff.
“Coach (Bill) Self and Coach (Kurtis) Townsend are both great coaches,” Preston told HoopPhenomReport.com recently. “I couldn’t say anything bad about them because they have been recruiting since my 8th grade year. All through adversity, they still stayed with me through the process and the coaches want me to come there and play my game.”
While Preston’s talent is unquestioned, he has been a player on the move throughout his prep career and that has raised at least a few eligibility concerns during the past couple of months.
But KU rarely has shied away from players with eligibility questions and also has a good track record of helping players become eligible, academically or otherwise.
Oak Hill marks his fifth school in five years, but Preston’s bond with Oak Hill coach Steve Smith seems to be something that has refocused him. It also seems like something that easily could continue at Kansas with Self and other members of the coaching staff.
“I’ve never coached a player at his size with his skills,” Smith told USA Today. “I don’t think he’s fully aware of how good he is, but he’s starting to realize it. He’s just happier now.”
Added Preston: “Things are different for me now. I always wanted to play for a coach that I would do anything for and I’ve definitely found that in Coach Smith.”
Preston joins Dallas combo guard Marcus Garrett (No. 37, according to Rivals) as the first two players in KU’s 2017 recruiting class. Garrett signed his national letter of intent earlier this month.
Self has said he could need to sign as many as six players in the current class if KU loses multiple underclassmen to the NBA Draft, but grabbing a versatile guard and a skilled big man puts the class off to a good start.
The Jayhawks remain in the running for top-tier point guards Trevon Duval (No. 3) and Trae Young (No. 14) and still are pursuing several other big men and guards in the class.
Regardless of where it goes from here, landing Preston helps ease the pain of missing out on three of the top 12 players in the class — DeAndre Ayton (No. 1, Arizona), Collin Sexton (No. 7, Alabama) and Troy Brown (No. 12, Oregon).