The remarkable story of Jason Preston added another chapter Thursday night.
At the 2021 NBA Draft, the Ohio Bobcats point guard was selected 33rd overall in the second round by the Orlando Magic. Preston was immediately traded from his hometown team to the Los Angeles Clippers for a future second round pick and cash considerations.
Preston didn’t arrive in college basketball as a highly-touted recruit. In fact, his college plans resembled the majority of non-student athletes. He averaged 1.7 points per game as a junior and 2.2 points per game as a senior at Boone High School in Orlando as a 6’0”, 140 pound shooting guard. When it was time to enroll into a university, Preston applied and was accepted to UCF as a journalism student.
His writing skills were on full display as he blogged about the Detroit Pistons, his favorite NBA team, on the website PistonPowered run by the Fansided network. Preston’s final post on the website centered on a Pistons regular season loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in February 2017, behind Greg Monroe’s 25 points and 13 rebounds.
In the meantime, Preston was accelerating in height and basketball ability. He had grown to 6’4” and after garnering recognition on the AAU circuit, he transitioned to Believe Sports Academy — a basketball prep school in Tennessee. Preston raised eyebrows from Division I programs while in Tennessee, averaging 12 points, seven rebounds, and nine assists per game. A Twitter highlight tape posted by Believe Prep assisted Preston in receiving an offer from Ohio.
Currently, Preston stands 6’4” and 187 pounds and is gifted with a 6’9” wingspan. His playmaking ability, success in the rebounding department, and defensive skills all contributed to raising his draft stock. Preston spent three years at Ohio, rapidly rising to become the Bobcats’ star player in 2019-20. That season, he averaged 16.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 7.4 assists, and 1.4 steals on 52/41/73 shooting splits. As a senior, he sustained that level of production on averages of 15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.5 steals on 51/39/60 splits.
Preston elevated an underdog Ohio team to a successful MAC Tournament run last March, averaging 22.7 points per game in the conference tourney to guide the Bobcats to their first March Madness appearance since 2012. In March Madness, the 13-seed Bobcats upset 4-seed Virginia behind Preston’s near-triple double of 11 points, 13 rebounds, and eight assists. Preston’s final game in green and white was a Round of 32 loss to Creighton and he subsequently declared for the NBA draft.
He becomes the first Ohio alum drafted since Brandon Hunter was selected by the Boston Celtics as the 55th pick of the 2003 NBA Draft. Preston is also the earliest Bobcat to come off the board since Gary Trent (the father of Toronto Raptors’ shooting guard Gary Trent Jr.) landed 11th overall in 1995. The Orlando native joins Richaun Holmes (Bowling Green) and Abdel Nader (spent two seasons at Northern Illinois) as the only active NBA players drafted out of the Mid-American Conference.
Preston joins a Clippers team fresh off of the first conference finals appearance in franchise history. Point guard was an evident need for the Clippers this offseason, as free agent Reggie Jackson will likely warrant a lucrative contract after averaging 17.8 points per game this postseason on efficient 41 percent shooting from beyond the arc. Additionally, 33-year old Patrick Beverley and 35-year old Rajon Rondo come off the books as free agents in 2022, so the addition of a young point guard prospect is a welcome sight to the organization.
Preston’s first notable action with the Clippers will likely be Aug. 9 in Las Vegas, when they face the reigning champion Milwaukee Bucks in Summer League action on ESPNU.