OHIO’s Jason Preston Heading To Los Angeles Clippers After NBA Draft

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — “To my beautiful, loving, amazing Mother… WE DID IT!!!!!” That was the first thing former Ohio Men’s Basketball player Jason Preston tweeted after being selected by the Orlando Magic with the 33rd pick, which was then traded to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Preston and his story first landed on the national radar when Ohio nearly upset eight ranked Illinois earlier in the 2020-21 basketball season. He made headlines with 31 points against Ayo Dosunmu, one of the premiere defensive players in the country who was considered a lottery pick at the time.

The story people across the country would learn soon after goes back to 2016.

Preston’s mom died from lung cancer as he was going into he junior year of high school. He moved into his mom’s best friend’s apartment with plans of going to UFC to study journalism. The academic choice made sense given that Preston contributed articles to PistonPowered, a blog dedicated to the Detroit Pistons.

His future in basketball was unclear. He was playing AAU basketball with Believe Prep Academy in Athens, Tennessee. Preston started playing with the lowest-tier team, made his way to the top but was sent all the way back down.

With no division one college offers, Preston put together his own highlight tape and put it on Twitter, unaware of how it would change his life forever.

Two D1 programs offered him: Longwood and Ohio University. Preston went with Ohio Men’s Basketball’s given it was the larger program that had success over the past decade

Preston instantly made a connection a redshirt-freshman at the time named Ben Vander Plas, who showed him around campus.

Mostly coming off the bench his freshman year, Preston averaged six points a game and 3.4 assists per game on an Ohio team that finished just 14-17 and 10th in the MAC. He showed flashes of elite talent during the season, something that caught the attention of the Ohio coaching staff.

The lackluster season led to then head coach Saul Phillip’s contract not being renewed by Ohio. Leading scorer Jason Carter also transferred to play at Xavier.

On March 18, 2019, Ohio announced that they were hiring Stony Brook head coach and Ohio alum Jeff Boals as the new head coach. Preston and Vander Plas didn’t know Boals at first, but their first interaction with him made them want to stay and play for him. Boals told them that he had to earn their trust, something they said they respected.

Preston’s sophomore year was his breakout to Ohio fans and alumni. He averaged 16.8 points per game and finished in the top 10 in the country for assists per game with an average of 7.4. Scouts started taking notice, saying he had elite passing skills with great vision to create plays and sense where a defender or opening will be. Preston’s bond with Vander Plas translated to on-court success and led Ohio to the MAC Tournament. But the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic shut downs.

Ohio's Jason Preston drives against the Buffalo defense in the Bobcats' game on Feb. 27, 2021
Ohio’s Jason Preston drives against the Buffalo defense in the Bobcats’ game on Feb. 27, 2021. [Chris J. Day | WOUB]
The time off was not wasted as Preston prepared for his junior year and what Coach Boals said was a year getting ready for the NBA Draft. Preston was getting serious consideration as a top 60 pick.

The 2020-21 season started around Thanksgiving, and game number three saw the Bobcats taking on Illinois and introducing Preston to the nation. His story was told by countless major media outlets, being interviewed by ESPN, CBS and many others. They asked him about his mother, which he always said is his biggest motivator and someone who is always with him. Whenever someone asked him about the draft however, he would say his goal was to win a MAC Championship and then he would think about his decision in the offseason.

Preston and Ohio entered the MAC Tournament as the five seed, only playing three games in just five weeks due to COVID-19 pauses. The Bobcats knocked off Kent State by 20, upset the top seeded Toledo Rockets by seven and beat the Buffalo Bulls by 15 points to capture Ohio’s first MAC Championship since 2012 and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. Preston was named MAC Tournament MVP for his three performances and the goal he had set was now complete.

The Bobcats were the 13 seed in the west region of the NCAA Tournament and matched up with the defending nation campions from 2019, the Virginia Cavaliers.

Preston dropped 11 points, 13 rebounds and eight assist to help Ohio upset the Cavaliers receive praise from NBA Superstars like Dwayne Wade and Trae Young on Twitter.

The run would end the next game as Creighton would beat Ohio in the Round of 32.

Preston announced on social media in April that he would throw his name into the NBA Draft, while maintaining his eligibility in college just in case. He entered the NBA Combine in June, and impressed scouts on offense in the five-on-five scrimmage portion. Slated as a late or even undrafted prospect going into the Combine, Preston improved his draft stock significantly.

His performance and feedback from interviews with NBA teams led him to make the decision to stay in the NBA Draft, ending his Bobcat career. In a message, he thanked Ohio for taking a chance on him and ended with two powerful messages: his first being something he has said a lot over the past year, “Believe in you.” The other was to his mother, in which he said, “We’re almost there.”

Thursday night came as Preston arrived to the NBA Draft with a group of supporters that included his girlfriend and Coach Boals.

A little into the second round, Jason’s lifelong dream came true. With the 33rd pick, the Orlando Magic agreed to trade the draft rights of Jason Preston to the Los Angeles Clippers.

A story fit for Hollywood, Preston took the time to hug and think about all that he had been through that led to this moment. He took to Twitter and tweeted in all caps “WOWWWWWW IM A CLIPPER!!! MANNN THIS IS A DREAM COME TRUE” and “NEVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU WHAT YOU CAN/CANNOT DO.”

Preston joins a franchise that just made it to the Western Conference Finals, has tremendous depth with players like Terrance Mann, Rajon Rondo and Patrick Beverley and two superstars in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

He’ll now have to work to play in one of the most recognizable arenas in the world, the Staples Center in downtown LA.

A truly feel-good story, one that almost seemed impossible, will add a new chapter in the bright lights of the City of Angels.