Thursday, October 26, 2017

Self: Freshman Billy Preston’s progress all about developing better habits

Kansas forward Billy Preston (23) defends against a drive by Missouri guard C.J. Roberts (0) during the first half of the Showdown for Relief exhibition, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

Kansas forward Billy Preston (23) defends against a drive by Missouri guard C.J. Roberts (0) during the first half of the Showdown for Relief exhibition, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017 at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri.


Kansas basketball coach Bill Self believes freshman forward Billy Preston could learn a thing or two about college basketball by watching former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough.

But not because the 6-foot-9, 250-pound Hansbrough reminds Self of his 6-10, 240-pound freshman in terms of skill set, body type or anything else. Instead, Self would like to see Preston tap into Hansbrough’s mind to position him to make a couple of big jumps during his freshman season.

“When Hansbrough played, it wasn’t that Hansbrough played harder than everybody every possession,” said Self of the three-time All-American, 2008 national player of the year and 2009 NCAA champion. “That was not what made him. What made him is, you put your best guy playing as hard as he can and he takes two possessions off out of 10, Hansbrough wears him out on those two possessions because he was 10 for 10 every single time.”

Still in the infant stages of his college career, Preston, who celebrated his 20th birthday on Thursday, is at the point where he still takes too many possessions off, according to Self.

“Billy’s maybe one out of three, one out of four right now,” Self said. “So if we get it up to one out of two the next couple weeks, maybe two out of three a couple weeks after that, I think we would’ve made some improvements.”

In some ways, Preston’s improvement already has surfaced. After playing in just three of four exhibition games in Italy this summer, to mixed reviews from his head coach, the former Oak Hill Academy standout proved to be a pleasant surprise during the Jayhawks’ 93-87 exhibition victory over Missouri last Sunday in Kansas City, Mo.

Self said after the game that Preston played better than he expected, and he reiterated this week at Big 12 Media Day that Preston delivered more than he thought he would get.

The freshman forward, who throughout his career has proven to be as comfortable on the wing as he is down low, finished 4-of-5 from the floor for 12 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes. He also added a steal, an assist and five fouls and made all four of his free throws.

“You guys think he played better and was more consistent because he made shots,” explained Self at Big 12 Media Day. “I think he also got exposed some, too.”

Where exactly?

“When you don’t hit somebody on the block out, a guy dunks it on top of your head, stuff like that,” Self said. “But I thought he did well. I thought it was a good first step. But it was a baby step.”

According to teammates, the most important area in which Preston can accelerate his development and help the team is by embracing what his size and frame can do for this team inside.

As deep as ever on the perimeter, with five talented guards and one waiting in the wings, the key to the Jayhawks' season might be tied directly to what they get in the paint. Having 7-foot sophomore Udoka Azubuike in there as the top dog is a good place to start, but Kansas also will need strong contributions from Preston and sophomore Mitch Lightfoot throughout the season.

“He’s got to develop (better) habits,” Self said. “His habits are not the best right now. He can do it. But Billy’s a skilled four man, so the last thing he wants to do is be the physical presence, so to speak. We don’t really have a physical presence like we had last year. Landen (Lucas) was obviously tough, but Josh (Jackson) gave us a presence that we don’t have right now. Billy’s not going to be able to do that early in his career, but I do think he’ll benefit from having a big (like Azubuike) around him.”

As for those times when Azubuike is forced to sit and Preston is on the floor as the team’s only big man, senior point guard Devonté Graham said he already was “real comfortable” with Preston holding down that role.

“Now he’s got to get more comfortable with it, you know,” Graham said this week. “He’s not used to being at the center position, but, with our team and what we need, he’s just got to buy into it, and I think he’ll be real comfortable come conference play.”

Preston and the Jayhawks open up their exhibition season at home at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Pittsburg State at Allen Fieldhouse.


Robert Brock 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Who scheduled the game at 7PM on Halloween? Sheahon Zenger?

Pius Waldman 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Well Cmon guess ole Zenger does everything our posters doing like. He probably spends time elsewhere.

Marius Rowlanski 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Let's just hope we get a "treat" and don't get "tricked" instead.

Joe Baker 4 weeks, 1 day ago

5 PFs? In which half did he pick up that 5th foul and at what time in that half did he get the called 5th foul?

I can tell you he won't do much if he fouls out. He's got to discipline himself and move his feet and not commit stupid fouls.

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 4 days ago

exactly..if he were playing on next years front court it wouldnt be an issue..but THIS year, with just him and Azibuike as the only front line players, he'll need to be very careful with his fouls. Im sure teams know KU is thin in the front court, so I look for teams to be aggressive with going into the post to draw fouls on them

Marcia Parsons 4 weeks, 1 day ago

Since they could all get 7 fouls for this game, probably no one noticed when he got foul #5. I'm sure the players weren't as careful, knowing they had that 2-foul cushion.

Tim Orel 4 weeks ago

And still one of Mizzou's players fouled out after about 12 minutes of game action.

Marius Rowlanski 4 weeks ago

This could very well be Missouri's best team since leaving the conference. Their basketball team has stumbled greatly since joining the SEC despite the SEC being overall a weaker conference.

Missouri's record in the SEC is a dismal 46 – 90. The football team has fared better with 37 wins and 27 losses under head coach Gary Pinkel who retired after the 2015 season. The only other team that has fared worse since leaving is Colorado while both the Nebraska and Texas A&M have had a successful transition.

Clarence Glasse 4 weeks ago

“Billy’s maybe one out of three, one out of four right now,” Self said. “So if we get it up to one out of two the next couple weeks, maybe two out of three a couple weeks after that, I think we would’ve made some improvements.”

I guess I don't understand basketball mind sets sometimes. Can someone tell me what that statement means?

Marius Rowlanski 3 weeks, 6 days ago

I thought he was referring to his free throw shooting. Certainly not the first time I've been wrong.

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

How many possessions he's giving 100% effort and doing proper offensive or defensive assignments vs slacking or not doing what is expected of him on O or D.

Paul Reynolds 4 weeks ago

Means sustaining concentration and effort throughout the entire possession on his personal responsibilities... such as defensive assignment, being in position for help defense, being the in proper position to spread the floor offensively, or block-out and rebounding.

Tony Bandle 4 weeks ago

Gee....and here I thought a five star, potential OAD would be one for one all the time. This "new math" has always been confusing. :)

One out of four!!! What's Billy doing out there...posing for holy pictures???

Rickey Pauler 4 weeks ago

The more I read about Preston, the more I'm reminded of Carlton Bragg. Hope the kid proves me wrong.

Marius Rowlanski 4 weeks ago

Bragg averaged just 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in 69 games at Kansas.

Shouldn't be too hard to prove you wrong.

Tim Orel 4 weeks ago

Bragg also had problems making it onto the floor. I hope Preston is able to beat out the others to get more than a few minutes a game. I hope Preston is a starter, but we'll see.

Marius Rowlanski 4 weeks ago

Even if he doesn't start right away, he will still get the minutes on the court. With Azubuike, Lightfoot, and Preston being the only legitimate frontcourt players on this year's team, I foresee Coach Self playing a 4 guard offense more than having 2 bigs on the court at the same time.

Shannon Gustafson 3 weeks, 6 days ago

Yeah, we don't really have a choice but to play Preston more this year than Bragg ever played so hopefully he makes the most of his time on the court.

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Preston already looks better than Bragg..He seems to have more hustle and versatility...Bragg just specialized in the mid range game..he never showed touch from the 3 and had a hard time scoring inside and with rebounding..Preston seems way ahead of where Bragg was at this stage..The ONLY similarity IMO is Preston will be counted on the way Bragg was last year..With KU's lack of front court recruiting, Bragg HAD to make the leap from his freshmen season, Preston will need to make that leap immediately due to KU's razor thin front line (oddly enough aided by Braggs transfer)

Craig Carson 3 weeks, 4 days ago

Preston has a ton of pressure this year to perform..but he doesnt need to dominate, just average around 10-12 ppg and about 7 rebounds and he will be great..

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