ATHENS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio University point guard Jason Preston will stay in the NBA Draft process and not return to OU after an impressive junior year and solid performance at the NBA Combine last week.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the story. Preston is listed as the 43rd-best player on ESPN’s list of the top 100 prospects. If he’s selected, Preston will be the first Bobcat drafted since Brandon Hunter in 2003.
During OU’s historic 2020-21 season, Preston led the Bobcats in points per game, minutes per game, assists per game and was second on the team in rebounds per game. His 7.3 assists per game was also 5th-highest in the country.
The 21-year-old from Orlando overcame a tremendous amount of adversity in his life, including the loss of his mother while he was in high school.
Preston wasn’t recruited out of high school after averaging two points per game his senior year. He enrolled in summer journalism classes at the University of Central Florida with no plan to pursue a basketball career. But luckily for him, an AAU coach noticed Preston playing in some games and suggested he go to prep school.
He enrolled at Believe Sports Academy and started on the third team or, “C Team” as they called it. He made his way up to the “A Team” but ended up going back the “C Team.” Despite getting moved back, he and some friends decided to make a highlight reel. Preston posted the video to Twitter leading to two college offers: Longwood and Ohio University.
During his his freshman year in the 2019-20 season, Preston started 22 of the Bobcats 30 games, averaged six points a game and led the team in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Everything changed during the offseason when former Ohio basketball player Jeff Boals took over as the Bobcats’ head coach. Boals knew he had a diamond in the rough in Preston.
“The first couple games, he was a pass-first point guard,” Boals said. “I’m like ‘JP, you get the ball in the paint every single time. You have to score the ball!’ That’s not the way he’s wired. He ended up with like 28 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists that game, and I think that gave him a lot of confidence for the rest of the year.”
He evolved into one of the nation’s top points guards last season, which the entire nation saw November 27 when the Bobcats almost upset No. 8 Illinois 77-75 — a game featuring Preston who dropped a career-high 31 points.
He continued to dominate and eventually led the Bobcats to their first NCAA Tournament appearance and win since 2012 when OUY beat Virginia 62-58 in the first round.
Preston’s departure will have an effect but aside from him, the Bobcats return every single player who saw significant minutes last season. Three of those players retuning include Ben Vander Plas, Ben Roderick and Dwight Wilson III who ranked second in the country in field goal percentage, thanks partly to Preston’s ability as a point guard.
Mark Sears filled in for Preston when he was hurt last season and played well, so look for the sophomore from Muscle Shoals, Alabama to be the Bobcats’ point guard for the 2021-22 season.