LAWRENCE — In some regards, Bill Self is in unfamiliar territory when it comes to the ongoing situation surrounding Billy Preston.
The Kansas coach said as much himself Monday.
The 6-foot-10 forward Preston is being indefinitely withheld from the KU lineup as the school’s compliance department looks into the financial picture of a vehicle Preston was driving at the time of a single-car accident Nov. 11 on campus. While Self had no update to provide on the freshman’s status, he did speak at length about the situation, how it compares to past player suspensions and Preston’s spirits given his uncertain future.
Preston, who Self said didn’t make the team’s trip to Miami for the No. 2-ranked Jayhawks’ victory Saturday over Syracuse in order to spend time with his mother, who was visiting Lawrence, returned to practice Monday. Self said he thinks the situation will reach a resolution soon but doubts it will happen by KU’s next contest, an 8 p.m. Wednesday game against Washington at Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
Self said everyone involved is continuing to attack the situation.
“And when I say attacking I mean that in the literal sense,” Self said. “We are trying to resolve this as quickly as possible, it’s just not going to be something that happens as quick as we want it to happen. But we’re very hopeful that we are nearing the conclusion to the point where maybe we can find something out in the relatively near future, but I don’t think it’s going to be by Wednesday.”
Preston has yet to make his in-season debut, withheld from the Jayhawks’ opener for missing curfew and class and absent the subsequent six games as the compliance department attempts to gather and analyze information regarding the vehicle.
“I don’t think that I’ve ever had a situation where I’ve dealt with this like we have since I’ve been here,” Self said, “and it has nothing to do with Kansas. It has everything to do with the system.”
Describing how the landscape has changed, Self recalled how 20 years ago virtually every athletic department had one compliance official that was responsible for every program and everything going on within said department. Today it’s much different.
“Now you have five to seven (compliance officials) and the mandate of the NCAA is, we want to monitor all these things,” Self said. “So I don’t know that it’s a lot different — I just know there are more things that have become known now than what there was before in large part because you have the manpower to look into them where you never looked into everything before.”
Reminded of past investigations and eventual penalties against former KU players such as Darnell Jackson, Josh Selby and Cheick Diallo, Self again indicated the Preston situation is unlike any other.
Jackson and Selby each missed the first nine games of their freshman seasons for what was determined to be impermissible benefits. Jackson, removed at the start of the 2005-06 season, received the ban after his family got approximately $4,500 from a booster. Selby, banished at the outset of the 2010-11 season, allegedly received $4,607.58. Both were ordered to repay those totals to charity.
“The way the rules are written, those are violations,” Self said of the Jackson and Selby bans. “So what you have to do, you have to try to mitigate those. But it takes time to get all the information and things like that.”
It may be easy, then, to envision Preston also receiving a similar punishment as Jackson and Selby, who returned near semester. Self, though, cautioned against making that assumption.
“Semester, I don’t know if that was a coincidence with (Jackson and Selby), but I don’t think it was. I think based on the penalty, that was probably something that we probably anticipated being the case,” Self said. “But I’m not sure that’s the case with this one though. I’m not sure that has anything to do with this one other than the fact that it is something that our people have worked really hard on and we think it will come to a head soon, and hopefully it will come to a head in a way that we held him out for precautionary reasons. But we just don’t know that yet.”
The situation involving Diallo, which NCAA executive vice president of regulatory affairs Oliver Luck called a “complicated case involving international transcripts,” is not “remotely comparable” to Preston’s situation, Self said.
“I don’t think it’s anything that’s different from the way the system works, but I can’t compare Cheick,” Self said of Diallo, who ultimately missed the first five games of the 2015-16 season. “Cheick’s situation was simply an academic situation, and you’re trying to get documentation from Mali that’s translated and you’re trying to do different things that the eligibility center is trying to work with you on, and they have their own investigator, so to speak, looking into it and evaluating course classes, which is totally different from what this situation is.”
On Preston’s spirits, Self said: “I don’t think he’s doing great.”
“You know, I think you’d be real surprised if anybody does great when you’re in limbo like this,” Self continued. “I think his attitude has been really good, but just because someone’s attitude is good doesn’t mean they’re not hurting inside. I think that’s the case with him.”
SOSINSKI NEARING WALK-ON ROLE
KU football player James Sosinski appears likely to join the Jayhawks’ bench as early as Wednesday.
Sosinski, a 6-7, 260-pound backup tight end, has been practicing with the basketball team and will suit up for Wednesday’s game against the Huskies (6-2), Self said during his weekly “Hawk Talk” radio show Monday, adding Sosinski will travel with the team moving forward.
While Sosinski isn’t expected to play meaningful minutes for KU (7-0), he will be only the third big on the team’s active roster and should become a key contributor in practice.
“I’m impressed with him as a kid,” Self said. “He seems bright. He’s picked up some stuff, even though we haven’t thrown anything at him hardly, pretty good. I think he’ll know his role. He’s hard for Udoka (Azubuike) to score on. He’s the one heavy body we can put down there that can lean on him and probably be just as strong and have an even better base than Doke to kind of push him out, so I think this is good for Udoka.”
On the heels of back-to-back 35-point games, senior guard Devonte’ Graham was given three weekly awards.
Graham was named Big 12 player of the week as well as national player of the week from NCAA.com and the Lute Olson Award. Graham bested his previous career high in scoring (27 points) in the victories over Toledo and Syracuse. He also averaged five assists, four rebounds and made 12 3-pointers in the two contests, including a career-high seven treys against the Orange.