ATHENS, Ohio (WCMH) — Ohio men’s basketball coach Jeff Boals spoke with NBC4i digital sports reporter Justin Holbrock for a special Summer edition of the Ohio Bobcats Coaches Show.
Boals discussed Jason Preston leaving to stay in the NBA Draft process, OU’s roster for the upcoming season, recruiting in person for the first time in two years and navigating the new era of name, image and likeness in college athletics.
Preston, who helped lead the Bobcats to their first NCAA Tournament appearance and win since 2012, announced last week he would not return to Athens in order to stay in the NBA Draft process. If he’s selected, Preston will be the first Bobcat drafted since Brandon Hunter in 2003.
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.
“His story and his life is a movie,” Boals said. “To get to where he is today, the adversity he’s overcome, the perseverance he’s had, you know the belief he’s had in himself, it’s unbelievable.”
Boals said rising sophomore Mark Sears showed he’s capable of filling the point guard position after his performance during his freshman season.
Boals was in Birmingham recruiting last week and said the Bobcats will bring in one more player after Preston’s departure.
Preston’s departure will make Ohio’s path to winning a second-straight MAC Tournament harder, but OU benefits from returning every other player who logged significant minutes last season.
Ohio also adds former Bobcat Jason Carter who spent three seasons in Athens before playing two years at Xavier. The Johnstown native stands 6’8″ tall meaning the Bobcats will have three players at that height, including returning starters Ben Vander Plas and Dwight Wilson III.
Ohio has not released its 2021-22 schedule, but fans can look forward to the Bobcats facing the Kentucky Wildcats in a multi-team event at some point this season. The event also includes Mount St. Mary’s and Robert Morris, where Boals was an assistant coach form 2004 to 2006.