Saturday, January 20, 2018

Notebook: Jayhawks say it was ‘tough’ to lose freshman Billy Preston, wish him luck in Bosnia

Kansas forward Billy Preston (23) sits on the bench during the second half on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas forward Billy Preston (23) sits on the bench during the second half on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.


On the eve of his big performance during Saturday's 70-67 victory over Baylor, Kansas sophomore Malik Newman spent nearly all of his time hanging out with teammate Billy Preston.

It was not until Saturday morning that Newman learned that the Friday night hangout would be the last involving Preston and the Jayhawks this season.

“Ah, it was tough,” Newman said of learning that Preston had signed with a professional team in Bosnia and was leaving Kansas for good. “I wish him the best of luck. I know he'll do great over there. But it was tough. That's a brother that we lost.”

Added senior point guard Devonte' Graham: “His situation is definitely tough. Kid coming out of high school, coming in, thinking he’s going to play in college, and then he didn’t even really get to play — at all. But he’s had a good attitude about it in practice and stuff like that, coming to practice, helping us out every day. You’ve got to wish him nothing but luck. His situation was kind of screwed up and you feel bad for him.”

Kansas coach Bill Self, who confirmed Preston's departure through a statement Saturday morning, said he had known about Preston's opportunity to join BC Igokea in Bosnia for three weeks. But it was not until a text message at 7:18 a.m. that Self knew it was a done deal.

“Of course (we're) disappointed,” said Self, officially classifying the matter as “an NCAA reinstatement matter” for the first time. “The disappointment comes from us not having a finality to it, (not) from (the NCAA) not making a decision. ... Just to be real clear, so fans don't think (certain) people are at fault; it took some time to get the information to them in a final package because if you get it to them and it's incomplete, it drags on longer and longer. Then there were follow-up deals, 'We have more questions, we have more things.' And we thought we were getting close, real close. But I think the team in Bosnia put pressure on (his mother) Nicole (Player) and Billy.

“We had been told (by the NCAA), 'Hey, we don't disagree with what you're saying, we're not saying we agree. But we are saying that we are not quite ready to make a final determination on it. I don't blame anybody, to be honest with you. I just hate it. I hate it for him because he didn't get to experience what college basketball's all about. Hopefully he'll go over there and kick butt and put himself in a position to be a higher draft pick because he went over there.”

In addition to continuing to praise Preston's contributions as a good teammate, Self said the Kansas basketball program always made it a priority to help Preston and his mother determine “what's best for Billy.”

“The decision was made that (they) want to stay at Kansas,” Self said. “But (they couldn't) stay and not get anything out of it. I mean, think about a kid that talented not even playing this year.”

As for where things go from here, Self said the only silver lining in the matter was that the team never had Preston in the rotation so they would not have to get used to playing without him.

“The good thing is, if there is a good thing, we know who we've got,” Self said. “We know how we need to practice. So you could look at that as a positive. But what KU fans and what we missed out on, this young man has Top 10, Top 15 type talent.”

As for where KU stands with the NCAA, and, specifically, if he thought Preston's situation was in any way tied to Adidas or if the university had anything to worry about in regards to any other infractions, Self said that, too, appeared to be in good shape.

“He didn't play,” Self said. “So there's not a situation with forfeiting games. It's in the hands of the NCAA and I've got to believe that they feel like we've been totally up front and presented all the information to them to the point where they wouldn't look at us in a negative way whatsoever.”

Podcast episode

Press Conferences & Post-Game Interviews

Bill Self talks Malik Newman's big second half, Billy Preston leaving for Bosnia

Kansas basketball coach Bill Self discussed his team's 70-67 victory over Baylor at Allen Fieldhouse, including Malik Newman's star performance in the second half and KU's solid first-shot defense against the Bears. He also talks about freshman forward Billy Preston leaving for a pro team in Bosnia.

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Big and bigger

After watching the Jayhawks tear up the Bears' zone during the first six minutes of the game, KU coach Bill Self decided to take his first look at his newly available, two-big man approach.

After a brief stint on the bench, Udoka Azubuike hopped up at the 12:03 mark of the first half and joined Silvio De Sousa for the next 1:40 together.

During that time, neither team scored and Azubuike missed a pair of free throws while De Sousa picked up a personal foul battling for a rebound.

While the KU newcomer continues to gain comfort, it was clear during his early minutes that he's still doing a lot of thinking and trying to keep his head from spinning. At one point, before stepping to the free-throw line after drawing a foul, Azubuike had to tell De Sousa to tie his shoe.

“We've got to put them out there some. But that was about the most ineffective thing that I've ever seen with that lineup in,” Self said. “Silvio, he didn't get anything done today. But it's not from lack of effort. He just didn't have a great day.”

Big 12 race update

Saturday's victory might have only counted for one win for the Jayhawks' overall record, but it wound up counting for two in the Jayhawks' lead in the Big 12 race over two of the league's toughest contenders.

Before KU's game with Baylor even tipped off, both Texas Tech and Oklahoma lost, on the road at Iowa State and Oklahoma State, respectively. Those results, along with KU's victory, give the Jayhawks a two-game lead over the Red Raiders (15-4, 4-3) and Sooners (14-4, 4-3) as the teams near the midway point of this year's conference race.

West Virginia, which lost to KU last Monday in Morgantown, W.Va., bounced back with a 35-point home victory over Texas on Saturday, which kept the Mountaineers (16-3, 5-2) just a game behind Kansas.

Just one week ago, all four teams were tied for first atop the Big 12 standings.

“It's a big stretch,” Self said. “Any time you win two games, regardless of how you do them, that's huge. It's huge to be able to do that. And it's too early in the season to wish for certain teams not to win. It's too early. In the last two or three weeks, there's no question. Whoever's competing with us, we always hope they lose. Even if they're playing each other, we hope they both lose.”

Moment of silence

Prior to Saturday's National Anthem the Kansas public address announcer asked the crowd for a moment of silence for Kansas legend Jo Jo White, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 71.

Graham said after the game that Saturday's win was for White. And although Self said the team did not specifically talk about dedicating the game to the fallen Jayhawk, he was not surprised that Graham did.

“I know Devonte' thinks about stuff like that,” Self said. “If you've been around here a long time you certainly respect tradition and you're going to know of and respect Jo Jo. He was an A-plus individual.”

This and that...

Saturday's victory pushed KU to 16-3 or better for the fourth consecutive season and 6-1 in Big 12 play for the second year in a row. ... The Jayhawks now have won 11 in a row over the Bears to push their lead in the overall series to 30-4, including a 15-0 mark at Allen Fieldhouse. ... KU is now 8-2 at Allen Fieldhouse this season and 766-112 in the building all-time, including a 228-12 mark under Bill Self. Self is now 22-4 all-time against the Bears.

More news and notes from Kansas vs. Baylor

By the Numbers: Kansas 70, Baylor 67

By the Numbers: Kansas 70, Baylor 67


Henry Joseph Hofmeister 4 years, 8 months ago

must be tough to swallow your words and say the politically correct thing. in reality he screwed this years team in whatever he did and abandoned them. he cost the university a ton of money in recruiting and used up a scholarship that could've been for someone else. he seems to be a nice guy and maybe it's his mom that did wrong but c'mon lets face it.

Shannon Gustafson 4 years, 8 months ago

How do you know he KNOWINGLY did something wrong? You don't. So I think blaming him without knowing definitively one way or the other is a poor thing to do.

If his mom's partner got him the car and he thought that was OK since they have been in a relationship for many years then there is no point blaming Billy.

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 4 years, 8 months ago

a college student should be smart enough to know the rules of his sport.

Austin Bergstrom 4 years, 8 months ago

Temptation gets us all at one time or another in our lives. You ever heard of Adam and Eve?

Shannon Gustafson 4 years, 8 months ago

Have you seen how convoluted and complicated the NCAA rulebook is regarding impermissible benefits? Some coaches/staff members don't even fully understand it and have to self-report after they mistakenly do something minor against the rules. Expecting a 20 year old to know them better than the staff is laughable. This is especially true if the NCAA couldn't figure out if there was a problem or not.

Barry Weiss 4 years, 8 months ago

I still think a bit more should be disclosed about the whole deal. I'm not happy KU can't give us more than that. Oh well, I'm just an alum.

Marc Frey 4 years, 8 months ago

I guess running the VIN and then a couple of phone calls took 3 months. It was clear after one month he wpuld not play.

Shannon Gustafson 4 years, 8 months ago

Genius alert!

If you seriously think they were only trying to figure out who owned the vehicle then you're a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Clearly it was much more complex than that.

Being "clear" that he wouldn't ever play when KU hadn't even completed their portion and submitted it to the NCAA is laughable. Hindsight is always 20/20 though!

Steve Zimmerman 4 years, 8 months ago

I wonder if other high schoolers would take the same route as Preston's. What's there to lose? If they make it big, the NBA will offer them $$$. Otherwise, they'll still get paid good $$$ than playing for free in college (or not being played as much).

Brian Shain 4 years, 8 months ago

Would it have been that bad for him to wait? I think the college game is more beneficial for a young talent like Preston. More exposure and we can probably argue better coaching. We see it time and time again guys leave early to just end up in China or Bosnia. Those places will always be there for these guys to make a living. Worse case scenario is he has to wait another year and spend that year learning from one of the best coaches in basketball at one of the best programs. I do think he probably got a lot of pressure from mama and there was more to the story than just a car. We will probably never know. BTW our Jayhawks are alone atop the Big 12. There's a long way to go but a couple of weeks ago a lot of people were ready to throw in the towel.

Henry Joseph Hofmeister 4 years, 8 months ago

you know the coaching is better. no exposure if you sit on the bench. but man, he had hudy weight training and self coaching. it can't be better than that in bosnia. just think of the language barrier, the food is completely different, you're playing a different game than the ncaa trains nba players for also.

Marius Rowlanski 4 years, 8 months ago

Best of luck Billy. I hope it works out in Bosnia and then later in the NBA.

Edward Daub 4 years, 8 months ago

Billy , We Hardly Knew Ya! Rock 'em Sock 'em and Best of Luck in your Pursuit of an NBA Career! Shame, Shame, Shame on the NCAA Mis-Management. F.B.I. Done!

Mike Greer 4 years, 8 months ago

We as fans and even the media are way short on facts, but there are a few things that have been reported on over the span of this debacle that I think we need to remember. A) Billy registered the car with the athletic department when school started. I think that's important because it indicates he wasn't trying to hide the fact he had a car. At that point, Billy must have thought the car was legit. B) The compliance staff was covered up with NCAA issues stemming from the FBI investigation. So maybe the car just slipped through. C) The car only became an issue after the accident. Why? Did Billy say something about the car that made KU suspicious? Why else would it suddenly be an issue. D) For whatever reason KU spent a lot of time sorting out the details. Maybe it was just complicated, or maybe his Mom was trying to make it right, we may never know. E) The NCAA didn't seem to have a sense of urgency about how they handled this, but KU knew more than they were saying publicly.

I'm still upset and mad as hell about this whole fiasco, and although I'm upset with all parties involved, I'm having a hard time putting all the blame in one spot. It just seems like Billy thought the car was ok, then no one waved a red flag when he came to KU, then it drug on way too long. I wish he would have stayed and we could have seen him play, it would have been nice to see the team as it was supposed to be. If it appeared the NCAA was going to draw out a decision and who knows if he would have been eligible this season, then as Coach stated, it's best to know who you have.

Allison Steen 4 years, 8 months ago

I could've sworn I read multiple times that it WASN'T registered with the athletic program and that was part of the problem. Did I misread that somewhere?

Its clear KU knows more than they're saying, but that doesn't make KU or Bill Self shady. That is standard procedure. We probably won't ever completely know unless the NCAA decides to comment, or the Preston family.

Kent Richardson 4 years, 8 months ago

This is the USA so it's always about the money.

Can't judge Billy for taking the money, either from the beginning or in the interim. His choice and reasons.Can't fault the program for not playing him in the interim.

Can question why was there no clear excuse by Billy. Can question why it was murky enough to take months to get enough information to proceed. Can question why NCAA was reluctant to accept the excuse. We can want to know how much money was offered to get Billy to Bos-Hergo?

We will probably never know. So goodbye and good luck Billy. The owner of the basketball club you are going to is a little on the questionable side.

It doesn't matter I suppose that Billy and the program are tainted by his non-career time with us. It matters to me but that is my choice if I want to feel protective. Painting it as a positive is not right.

Tony Bandle 4 years, 8 months ago

Just curious but is Billy a former Jayhawk or is he not? I would be really interested in what you all think the answer should be. The players position is obvious, but what do the fans think?

Blake Phillips 4 years, 8 months ago

i'd say he's a jayhawk because:

  1. was enrolled & has a semester of credits.
  2. played/represented KU in exhibition games.

sad but true. he did as much as say.... a tyler self "on the court".

Adrian Meneses 4 years, 8 months ago

It’s funny how short-sided and hypocritical the things folks are pitching to these “camps” (Billy & Nicole & etc.....) telling them to “chase the in right now, this year, tomorrow cause to be honest he probably should of gotten paid for last week too!”

These kids should be looking at it as when high school is over the next step is .........(“should not be where am I gonna be in 9months/1yr from now draft wise” ) it should be OK this next step is a 3-4 yr process to get to max $$, since that is what most people strive for in this industry. Reason being is that depending on draft postion for the next year which usually leads to a 3yr contract is then up and that 2nd contract is what most strive for to set oneself up for there career. With that being said in regards to Billy, let’s say he leaves now goes over to Bosnia for let’s say 450k/500k max looks good from a far then gets draft between 10-20 (9mil-5.5mil 3yr contracts last yr draft) let’s say 10th for 9mil. If he where to stay a yr and miss out on that 500k from Bosnia he would Hudy prepping his body for the NBA for a full 20months and Self would definitely work on improving his weaknesses & playing team ball mentality which would help his game transition. So he then rocks it his 2nd year and let’s just say improves his stock up to 6-8th pick range, well last year that $$ was 12.5 - 10.5 mil. So subtract 9mil +500k from that we get 1-2 mil he is leaving on the table over the next 4 yrs that’s bout 500k a yr extra that can be added to salary every year. But wait chase that 500k today that you were deserved yesterday & put your next 4 yrs of career at higher risk for failure than waiting 12 months longer to take a route less risky with higher upside...That’s dream I would chasing

Adrian Meneses 4 years, 8 months ago

As now I am a fan but once many many years ago when KU had a men’s tennis team I was a walk-on during the last year of existence. With that being said I was definitely part of team no question cause all go through everything gosh now that I think about it being so long ago I still consider my other 9 teammates like brothers so I can see from an interior team aspect. But honestly I didnt truly feel like I was part of the team until I won a match to put a point on the board in Offical Competition. So short story long I see & know how he is viewed by those on the interior, but for me as fan on the exterior years from now I will look back at this years stat sheet to see who did what on this team where Billy, unfortunately, will not be found. So unfortunately I say he is “not” JayHawk in my book.

Harlan Hobbs 4 years, 8 months ago

Obviously, KU suspected that he had done something wrong or they would not have held him out of competition. I agree with Shannon that there is more to this story than what we know, or think we know.

At this point, it's best to just forget about it and move on. As Coach Self says, now we know what we have and don't have. Therefore, further speculation is just a distraction.

We need to get used to the fact that KU isn't going to blow anybody out this year. However, as long as KU keeps winning the close ones, I'll settle for that, even though it doesn't bode well for after the conference season is over. Sooner or later, one of the close ones will go against us, especially when we have to go up against another team that is good at winning the close ones.

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