The Kansas Jayhawks entered the 2017-18 season with high aspirations. KU was No. 4 in the AP Preseason Poll, and head coach Bill Self put together the ninth-ranked recruiting class in the country, according to 247Sports.
That top-10 recruiting class was headlined by 6-foot-10 power forward Billy Preston.
Preston — a Los Angeles native who finished his high school career at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia — stirred excitement in Lawrence. He had a knock-down midrange jumper with the capability of stretching beyond the arc. His size and court vision gave him the ability to find cutters.
Preston put these abilities on display in the Jayhawks’ three exhibition games. His stats showed promise. He scored 33 points on 14-for-16 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds in 46 minutes. The young Jayhawk was poised to be one of the best college basketball players in the nation.
All that excitement came to a halt on November 8, 2017.
Billy Preston NCAA Investigation
Billy Preston was driving through campus and hit a curb. The accident resulted in minor tire damage to Preston’s car, but there was no property damage, injuries, or any other party involved. Following the accident, KU wanted a “clearer financial picture” regarding the freshman’s car and sent their findings to the NCAA.
Self sat the McDonald’s All-American while the NCAA investigation proceeded. After 18 regular-season games went by, the NCAA still hadn’t made a ruling on Preston’s eligibility. The power forward decided to take matters into his own hands.
On January 20, 2018, Preston signed a professional contract with BC Igokea in Bosnia, forfeiting his amateur status. He made his debut just nine days later and scored 2 points in six minutes of action. After three games, Preston left Igokea due to shoulder soreness and declared for the 2018 NBA Draft.
Billy Preston Pro Career
The former Jayhawk earned an invite to the NBA Combine in Chicago. Ultimately, his name wasn’t called on draft night, but he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers and played on their Summer League team in early July. His play in Las Vegas earned him a two-way contract that split time between the Cavs and the Canton Charge, Cleveland’s G-League affiliate. Preston was waived on December 2, 2018 with zero appearances for the Cavaliers.
Since his time in Cleveland, Preston has been all over. He was acquired by the Erie Bayhawks —the Atlanta Hawks’ G-League affiliate — two weeks after being waived by Cleveland. In February 2019, he was traded to the Texas Legend, the Dallas Mavericks‘ G-League affiliate. He left the Legends about a month into the 2019-20 season for the Illawarra Hawks of the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia. The power forward was released after only three games.
Billy Preston can be classified as a “what if.” What if he had never been in that car accident? What if the NCAA had made a ruling on his eligibility instead of leaving him in limbo? You can’t blame Billy for leaving Kansas. He grew tired of the prolonged investigation and wanted to play.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to play where he wanted.
Before the accident, Billy Preston was projected as a first-round NBA Talent. Now, he’s having trouble finding a stable situation. This kid’s life plan completely changed course due to a drive he probably took every day.