It was an eventful Saturday in the state of Kentucky for Billy Preston, one of the top basketball recruits in the class of 2017.
Preston spent his morning in Lexington, checking out UK’s campus and watching the Wildcats practice along with five-star teammate Trevon Duval, the No. 1 point guard in the country.
On Saturday night, Preston led Advanced Prep International (Texas) to a victory over Thon Maker’s Athlete Institute (Ont.) squad at the Thoroughbred Classic in Somerset. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound power forward threw down three dunks in the game’s first three minutes and finished with 22 points and most valuable player honors.
A player in this era, you can’t make a final decision without having Kentucky in there, if you have an offer from them. It’s just one of those type of schools.
Preston is used to dominating on the court. He’s not used to hobnobbing with Coach John Calipari, who he met for the first time after Saturday’s practice.
“It was great,” he told the Herald-Leader. “At the end of it all, when he’s done coaching, he’s definitely going to go down as one of the greatest coaches in college basketball. So it was an honor for me to meet him and exchange a few words with him.”
Preston is ranked by 247Sports as the No. 5 overall prospect in the class of 2017, and he’s considered a top-10 player nationally by every major recruiting service. The California native is playing alongside several talented players at API, which plays a national schedule and has made several appearances in the state of Kentucky this season.
Preston’s mother was in the stands at Pulaski County High School on Saturday night, telling fans that she’d like to see her son playing for the Wildcats in a couple of years.
“She definitely is a Kentucky fan,” Preston said. “We keep up with Kentucky. We’ve been watching the whole season so far. A player in this era, you can’t make a final decision without having Kentucky in there, if you have an offer from them. It’s just one of those type of schools.”
About that offer, Preston says he still doesn’t have one from the Wildcats.
He said Calipari didn’t say much about recruiting during Saturday’s visit, but assistant coach Kenny Payne has been in regular contact with Preston’s mother regarding his recruitment.
Preston noted that Calipari also watched him play on the Under Armour circuit last summer in Atlanta and is still holding out hope that the scholarship offer will happen. He said he liked the UK coach’s “hands on” approach with his players in Saturday’s practice. “He’s on point with everything,” he said. “If you’re not doing something right, he’s going to make you keep doing it over and over.”
Preston also appreciates Calipari’s track record of getting players to the NBA in quick fashion, a resume that includes 13 lottery picks since coming at Kentucky.
“Look at their history,” Preston said. “Kentucky is the type of school where, if you’re a one-and-done player, you’re going to go there, do what you have to do and go pro.
“And that’s what I would want to do. Every player’s dream is to play professional basketball. If you’re really that good and have that ability to go one and done, then why not go there and develop your game for a few months and go pro.”
Preston has trimmed his recruiting list to 13 schools: UK, Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Kansas, Maryland, North Carolina State, Oregon, St. John’s, Southern Cal, Texas, UConn and UNLV.
He said Saturday night that he plans to cut that list down to five or six programs sometime next month, and then concentrate on those select few for the remainder of his high school career.
UK seems to be a program on his mind.
“Like I said, no player is going to cut it down without Kentucky being on the list,” he said. “When I get that offer, I’m definitely going to consider them heavily.”