CHICAGO — Billy Preston did not make his Kansas basketball debut Tuesday night against Kentucky — and his wait might just be getting started.
The 6-foot-10 freshman forward was withheld from the lineup for the second straight contest, this time on the heels of single-vehicle accident on campus Saturday that has spurred a decision by KU administrators to seek more information regarding Preston’s vehicle.
“There were no injuries but Billy’s car sustained damage,” KU coach Bill Self said in a news release. “After I learned about the incident, I reported it to our administration. The administration determined that we needed a clearer financial picture specific to the vehicle, we decided to hold him out of tonight’s game and will continue to do that until the review is complete.”
In a text message to The Topeka Capital-Journal, KU associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said he couldn’t provide further information on the “clearer financial picture” aspect of Self’s statement.
Preston, a former five-star recruit and No. 11-ranked prospect in the Class of 2017 by recruiting outlet Rivals.com, was withheld from the No. 4-ranked Jayhawks’ season opener against Tennessee State after the freshman missed curfew on Thursday and parked illegally, resulting in missed classes Friday, Self said following the game.
Self said Preston was informed of the decision to hold him out against No. 7-ranked Wildcats before a pregame meal.
“Needless to say he was disappointed and crushed,” Self said. “He was very excited to make his KU debut. We hope to have the situation resolved as soon as possible.”
Following Tuesday night’s game — a 65-61 victory for the Jayhawks — Self addressed the Preston situation at length, saying the team spent all day trying to get the necessary information to the KU compliance department to get the freshman cleared.
“I’m proud of Billy. He was a great teammate on the bench,” Self said. “Our guys will rally around him. But certainly it was disappointing — very disappointing.”
Self said he has been completely removed from the review process, as is standard for coaches, but said he has faith the issue will be resolved.
“Yeah, I’m confident it will get cleared up,” Self said, “but I don’t know the time frame and they haven’t clued me in.”
Asked if this is a situation the compliance department should’ve looked into before the season or before Preston’s accident, Self deferred.
“That’s a good question. That’d probably be one for our compliance office,” Self said. “It was registered. Everything was good. But they dove into it a little bit deeper. That doesn’t mean something wrong has been done.”
Preston issued two tweets around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, the first simply reading “Wow” and the second stating “(Shaking my head) people love trying to see me fail.”
Without Preston, the Jayhawks were left with just two frontcourt players in their rotation — sophomore center Udoka Azubuike and sophomore forward Mitch Lightfoot. Azubuike played a career-high 34 minutes in the victory over the Wildcats.
Even if Preston returns, Self expects to ease practices over the next month-plus, pending the addition of transfer guard Sam Cunliffe and the potential addition of Class of 2018 prospect Silvio De Sousa, who is attempting to reclassify and join the Jayhawks this December.
Self said De Sousa is “on pace” to graduate and academically qualify.
“If that’s the case then that would change the depth situation and everything immediately,” Self said of De Sousa’s situation. “But until then I can’t see us being much more than an hour-and-15, hour-and-30-minute practice team.”