How Jason Preston Went From a Cinderella Story to the No. 33 Choose within the 2021 NBA Draft

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On the age of 16, Jason Preston was confronted with an impediment nicely previous the likes of the everyday teenager in love with the sport of basketball. Preston’s mom, Judith, misplaced her battle with lung most cancers, leaving him with out the closest determine he’s ever recognized. 

Rising up in Orlando, basketball might have aided Preston via an insurmountable grieving course of, however the former Ohio College level guard says his religion guided him in the direction of peace. 

“As soon as I actually believed, in my religion, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and the side of all the things taking place for a cause,” he says in a ZOOM name, only a few days earlier than the 2021 NBA Draft. “So simply to know that, it’s all part of God’s plan. She’s in a greater place now, as a substitute of getting to battle the way in which she was down right here. She’s in a significantly better place and you recognize, simply having that mindset actually helps you push via not solely that particular impediment however something you could be coping with in life.”

The whole lot taking place for a cause may as nicely be the motto for Preston’s journey. After averaging solely two factors per sport in highschool and shedding the closest connection he’s ever had, Preston has persevered and molded himself into an NBA draft choose. Final night time, he was chosen No. 33 total by the Los Angeles Clippers.

The lanky 6-foot-Four guard says the mix of two elements has coalesced into the success he’s garnered to date: confidence and alternative. After beginning only one sport in his highschool profession, Preston graduated from William R.Boone Excessive College and started taking summer time lessons on the College of Central Florida with the intention of enrolling within the fall and majoring in journalism.  

He continued to hoop, enjoying in concurrent tournaments in Orlando and Georgia. Whereas he shined on the summer time circuit, he additionally was given recommendation from Division I and II scouts: take into account prep college. 

He took their recommendation and moved to Athens, Tennessee to play for a university boarding prep program, Consider Prep Academy. With roommates on the C-team, Preston elected to play for his or her squad solely in an try to discover a constant rhythm coupled with constant time on the ground. He discovered each and was shortly bumped as much as the A-team in the course of the 2017-18 season, the place he averaged 12 factors, 9 assists, and 7 rebounds per sport. 

“Because the season was ending, I noticed I didn’t have any movie on myself and that’s one thing that coaches need,” Preston says. “So after considered one of our tournaments, I requested for the group iPad. I’m display recording all these clips of myself. I despatched it over to considered one of my associates, he put all of it collectively, like a two-minute, three-minute combine, and Consider’s Twitter web page posted it.”

Whereas the put up has since been eliminated as a result of copyright points, Preston’s excessive motor, sensational pocket-passes, and quintessential drive to search out the open man caught the eyes of Ohio College. 

There, Preston needed to regulate to the fast-paced, bodily dominant type of basketball on the collegiate stage. As a freshman, he began 22 video games and averaged 6 factors per sport whereas enjoying for head coach Saul Phillips. However by the tip of the season, after ending with a 14-17 report, this system determined to half methods with Phillips and employed alum Jeff Boales. 

Preston says that solely 4 gamers remained after his freshman yr, two of which had been harm. One other alternative had introduced itself, and all Preston needed to do was attain for it. 

“It was mainly a completely new group and I knew that I used to be gonna need to take an even bigger function and I used to be actually excited for the chance,” he says. “I used to be consuming 5 meals a day, I’m speaking about meals meals. Lifting anytime I might, understanding at the very least twice a day, like, I used to be actually actually motivated that summer time.”

Preston says he placed on 20 kilos that summer time by consuming a ton of Chipotle. He additionally grew three inches, standing at 6-foot-4. Clearly, all that coaching (and steak and rice) paid off going into his sophomore yr, the place he averaged 16.eight factors and seven.Four assists per sport. He scored his first profession triple-double, and solely the second in program historical past, in opposition to Miami. 

Carrying that momentum into his junior yr, Preston had a breakout sport in opposition to Illinois, the place he dazzled in a nail-biting 77-75 loss. He completed with a season-high 31 factors, grabbing six boards, and allotting eight assists. 

Heading into the sport, Preston says his confidence was hovering. With an understanding of Illinois’ drop protection and defensive schemes, he knew he’d have to claim himself as a score-first guard, one thing he’s not often needed to escape of his bag.

“I simply took what they gave me,” Preston says. “I had like a floater a variety of occasions, I had my shot going early. Generally I’d take all of it the way in which to the rim. The second half I attempted to get a little bit bit extra of my guys concerned. Sadly, we couldn’t pull it [off], nevertheless it actually helped our total confidence as a group that we will play with anyone.”

Now, Preston is bringing that unwavering confidence into his subsequent alternative: the NBA. Having by no means visited the western half of the US, Preston took a second throughout his interview with SLAM to mirror on the great thing about the cities he acquired to go to to date, from Denver and Phoenix to Los Angeles, in the course of the pre-draft course of. 

After listening to his identify get referred to as final night time, Preston will now name the Metropolis of Angels residence. He despatched out a tweet shortly after that mentioned, “NEVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT YOU CAN/CANNOT DO.” 

Regardless of the chances, Preston’s journey to the League is a testomony to these phrases, in addition to the religion and confidence he’s all the time had in himself. The whole lot really occurs for a cause.  

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